This year I spent Father's Day away from my own father, and even away from my wonderful husband (he's on a fire assignment). I did however get to spend it with my father-in-law. I offered to make dinner and dessert (Strawberry Meringue Cake). They had chicken breasts, and spinach to use. So, I came up with this Stuffed Chicken Florentine recipe. It's 3 large chicken breasts, butterflied and stuffed with 3 cheeses, sauteed spinach and onions, baked to perfection and topped with a little more cheese (because it tastes good of course). 3 large breasts served 6 and we were all pretty full afterwards. I was happy to hear my father-in-law tell me numerous times how good it was and how much he appreciated it. Food is one of the best gifts - don't you think?
Now I get to share that gift with you. There are a few steps, but none of them are particularly hard or time consuming.
Here's how you do it:
Start by adding 1 Tbsp of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) to a large skillet over medium heat.
To the oil, add 1/2 a medium onion, diced, and a pinch of salt.
When the onions are translucent, add one big handful of fresh (washed and dry) spinach per chicken breast. I made 3 breasts, so that was 3 large handfuls. (Maybe a pound all together?) It looks like it won't all fit in the pan, but it will.
Just use some tongs and stir it around with the onions and oil.
As you keep stirring, and it starts to cook, it will shrink down.
Add a couple dashes of nutmeg (I use fresh ground nutmeg @ home, but this is what the in-laws have and it will work just fine.) I probably added 1/8 tsp total.
When the spinach is all wilted down, turn off the heat and add about 1 Tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Just sprinkle it around, and then stir it in. The spinach is done.
You'll also need about 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated of course. Set that aside as well.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of Ricotta cheese,
1/2 tsp granulated garlic,
1/4 tsp black pepper
about 1 tsp dry parsley.
and 1 Tbsp of the grated Parmesan.
Mix this all together and set aside. Now most of the filling is done.
When everything is ready to go, start on your chicken. Drizzle some EVOO onto a cookie sheet, and then place your boneless, skinless chicken breast down.
Starting at the fat end, slice it in half, horizontally. You will make small strokes and open the breast up like a book. try and get it as even as possible, so that both sides are the same thickness.
This was my first breast, and I did o.k. but I could have split the tapered end a little better. I did the second two breasts much more evenly. You're looking to have the chicken lay flat.
When all the breasts are butterflied (split open like a book), wash you hands! Cross contamination is real. Don't get sick- be safe. Stepping off my soap box. . . spread the insides of each chicken breast with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture.
Distribute it evenly over both halves.
Next comes the spinach and onions. Put 1/3 of the spinach mixture on one half of each chicken breast. (Am I using enough fractions for you? My second grade teacher would be proud.)
Top the spinach with about 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, and about 1 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese. Cheese is like butter - it usually makes everything better.
You'll need 6 toothpicks. (This is how my mom-in-law keeps hers. Cute, huh?)
Fold the non-spinach side over, to make a whole chicken breast again, and enclosing the stuffing. Secure each breast together with two toothpicks.
When they are all folded back together, and secured with the toothpicks, they go into a preheated 400F oven for 20 minutes.
When they come out they will be oozy - that's o.k.
Remove the toothpicks and top with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Put back into the oven for 5 minutes, to melt the cheese.
After the 5 minutes, take them out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. If you are extremely hungry you can eat one all by yourself . . .
but I recommend only eating half. (When it's cut in half you get to see how beautifully layered it is inside.) Serve with and veggies and/or bread of your choice and enjoy! - My mom-in-law made some lovely asparagus and roasted garlic mashed potatoes! Save room for some Strawberry Meringue Cake!- I hope you like it as much as we all did. Serve this up for someone special in your life - even if that someone special is you! ;)
Here's the recipe:
Stuffed Chicken Florentine:
3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), divided
1/2 medium onion, diced
pinch of salt
3 large handfuls of fresh, washed and dry spinach (about 1 lb)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
red pepper flake (optional, to taste)
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dry parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 400F. Saute onions and salt (and red pepper flake, if using) in a large skillet with 1 Tbsp EVOO until the onions are soft. Add the spinach and nutmeg and cook over medium heat until the spinach is wilted. Add 1 Tbsp Parmesan. Take off the heat and set aside. Combine ricotta, garlic, black pepper, parsley and 1 Tbsp Parmesan in a small bowl. Set aside. Drizzle 1 Tbsp EVOO onto a cookie sheet and lay down the chicken. Butterfly each chicken breast, starting at the thick side and opening it up like a book until it lays flat. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture evenly over the inside of each breast. Place 1/3 of the spinach mixture over 1/2 of each of the butterflied breasts. Top the spinach with 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese and 1 Tbsp of the Parmesan cheese for each breast. Fold the non-spinach side over to enclose the stuffing and make one whole breast again. Secure each breast with 2 toothpicks. Bake @ 400F for 20 minutes. Take out the toothpicks and top with remaining Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve - 1/2 breast per person.