ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Is there too much chicken in your life and on your table?
We are eating more chicken than ever before.
Some of us eat chicken because of the lower animal fat content, others because good chicken costs a whole lot less than good beef.
This seems especially true here in New Mexico.
Still others choose chicken because it is really easy to prepare.
For those of us following a lower carbohydrate eating plan, like me, because of my Type 2 diabetes, chicken has become the go-to meat. It doesn’t seem to need high carbohydrate side dish to support it on the plate.
Yes, I know rice and chicken is a staple of many cultures. A well-prepared chicken dish will work just as well with a “riced” cauliflower.
I have a couple of complaints about chicken:
Have you ever noticed how big the chicken breasts have become?
Years back, one would have little trouble eating a half breast. Today markets are selling half breasts that weigh as much as a pound a piece. Can you imagine how big an egg is to hatch such a large chicken?
These huge cuts can make portion control a lot more difficult. You certainly can cut the chicken breast in half, but it isn’t going to look quite the same on your plate because you break the tension membrane on the breast.
The other complaint is eating a lot of chicken can get boring. Too many of my readers have said: “If I have to face another meal of chicken and some vegetable or salad, I will scream.”
An easy and fun thing to do is stuff it.
Somehow, stuffing things make foods taste better, keep them more moist and looking more special.
One of the earliest recipes for stuffed chicken is Chicken Cordon Bleu. Translated from French it is blue ribbon chicken. It is simply stuffing the chicken with ham and cheese. How difficult is that?
Each choice of ham from simple boiled to fancy Italian prosciutto, and each choice of cheese from Swiss to fontina creates a totally new dish for your family.
Aside from enhancing the taste, look and variety of that boring old chicken breast or thigh, this is a great way to add vegetables to your meal.
Below is my recipe for Greek stuffed chicken. It calls for spinach and feta cheese. If you hate feta cheese, use Swiss cheese or cheddar.
Don’t like spinach, use broccoli. Each choice you make creates a new flavor.
You can treat your family with a different flavor for months with simple changes to this basic recipe.
As someone cooking and eating to help keep the carbohydrates lower, I use Parmesan cheese to crust the chicken rather than bread crumbs. If you are not watching your carbs, try using panko for a really crispy crust.
Ward Alper was a chef in New York and Boston before retiring in New Mexico. Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about 7 years ago, he blogs as the Decadent Diabetic, decadentdiabetic.com.
STUFFED “GREEK” CHICKEN
Chef’s Note: Spinach, onion, feta and lemon are just made for each other. Frozen spinach is not only easier to use, but just as good. One of the best things about stuffed chicken is that you can do it in advance, refrigerate it and pop it in the oven when you need it. This recipe freezes raw very well. Skinless boneless chicken thighs work just as well.
4 chicken breasts, 6 ounces each
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, plus one ounce, all grated
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon dry oregano
¼ teaspoon dry thyme
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place two of the chicken pieces between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Using a rolling pin or heavy pan, pound the pieces to about ¼-inch thickness. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Sauté the onion in the olive oil until a light golden brown. Turn off the heat and add the garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the salt, pepper, oregano and spices. Allow to cool slightly.
Press as much liquid from the spinach as you can. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to distribute evenly. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and stir to combine. Add the sautéd onion mixture, stir to combine. Add the crumbled feta cheese and stir to combine.
Place the chicken on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Distribute the stuffing mixture evenly on each piece and roll up.
You can freeze all or part of the chicken at this point or spoon the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the rolled chicken and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Place in a greased baking dish and bake for 45 minutes. Chef’s tip: For a little more brown color, place the baking dish under the broiler for 2-3 minutes … watching it like a hawk.
PER SERVING: 245 calories, total fat 21.1 g (saturated fat 8.8 g), 515 mg sodium, 4.7 g carbohydrates, .7 g fiber, 2.3 g sugar, 11.2 g protein.