Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mediterranean Chicken with a Garlic, Spinach and Feta Stuffing

What a perfectly craptastic day.  Two doctor's appointments today, one local, one in SODO.  Hopefully I will get some assistance towards herding ducks, while trying to figure out why I feel as badly now as I did when I was sent off on this journey two months ago.

The good news is:  Cindy 2, Cancer 0.  I feel very fortunate that the biopsy of the intenstinal polyp came back benign.  Benign is probably one of my top five favorite words in the English language, along with love, chocolate, and lobster.

The bad news is that I still have no answer for what is causing my eating difficulties.  All those tests and procedures over the last few months, and the only thing the gastroenterologist can tell me is that I had gastric bypass surgery, and my stomach (or what still passes as a stomach) is very small.  No, really?  He ordered more tests, two of which require me to drink that dreadful barium milkshake.  Since I have trouble swallowing coffee, this should prove very interesting.

One appointment over - well, that confused the hell out of me.  I may not be dead yet.  At any rate, that assembly of ducks, foretelling the start of my twilight years, is not a foregone conclusion.  My gastric bypass may have kicked in again, which is as good an explanation as any. I have more paperwork to fax to Tallahassee - probably get this FMLA cluster f--- approved just in time for me to go back to work.  Back to work.  Who woulda thunk it?

The second appointment took care of a few pharmaceutical matters. which was much appreciated.  Also, the doctor tells me that the new medication may take care of the brain fog which has screwed up the quality of my life even more than the pain.  Maybe better living through chemistry will become more than a catchphrase for an old hippie like me. Hope, like bad luck and taxes, springs eternal.

Ah ha, is that a glimmer of light I am seeing off in the distance?  Only time will tell.  Which is what I have always felt, but now time is being telescoped exponentially as I approach what looks like the Finish Line.  Life is never boring.

With all that going on, I have been spending entirely too much time driving around town, looking for parking spaces and hanging out in waiting rooms.  That's not a routine I particular enjoy, but it has consumed a big chunk of the last 3 months, and is becoming my new normal.  Bugger.  There's a sign of getting older.  Still better than the alternative.

The cooking has been slow going.  Things keep getting added to my list and my refrigerator looks like the poster child for bauxite mining.  Stack after stack of aluminum trays filled with food.  Still have more to go, but at least there is room in my freezers.  I still have a recipe for baby eggplants that I prepared before the cruise and have not gotten around to sharing.  And then there are the Northern Indian Lamb Meatballs which I finished day before yesterday and which are well worth your time to check out.  I'll get those in writing real soon, but first I've got some more cooking to do before any of the ingredients head south in the freshness department.

I did take an unscheduled turn into the realm of chicken soup.  Feeling totally disgusted by my inability to ingest anything with nutritional value, I dragged out the crockpot and made my clear and convincing chicken soup.  The only difference from the original recipe was that I used a whole chicken, stripped of it's skin and fat, which I froze for future schmaltzings.  To this I added the epitome of Jewish cooking, namely the matzo ball, or what I was brought of to call knaidlach.  Once you call it knaidlach you'll never go back to calling them matzo balls.  That will be another post; I'm overloading my cooking circuits here, but I feel good about it.

The following recipe was one that was lurking around in my head for a couple of days.  I had picked up a nice package of chicken breasts at BJs, and I wanted to do something different with them.  Of late, I'd been cooking my chicken with fruit, with curry-based sauces, tomato sauces, cream sauces, etc. Once I decided to stuff the little darlings, it was just a matter of what kind of stuffing, and that was easy.  I was craving spinach with a lot of garlic, and this is what I came up with.  This is totally my own, so I can't blame Martha Stewart or Mario Batali for any failures.

The truth is that I surprised myself with just how good these came out. The only hard part is creating the pocket, and if you have a sharp boning knife, it's no problem at all.  They make a pretty presentation for company, or an office potluck.

Mediterranean Chicken with a Garlic, Spinach and Feta Stuffing

4 tablespoons butter
4 very large or 6 medium cloves of fresh garlic (about half a head), chopped
a pinch of table salt
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1-10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted,  all excess liquid squeezed out
"Slap Ya Mama" White Pepper Blend
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, garlic and herb flavor
1 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano cheese
dried oregano

8-9 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, pocket cut into each (see photos)

Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet.  Add the garlic, sprinkle on a tiny amount of salt, lower the heat to medium low, and cook slowly until the garlic becomes soft and  light golden.  Add the flour and cook together, stirring constantly, until the raw smell from the flour is gone.  Add the cream and stir, bringing to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.  This is going to be very thick and the sauce may "break" - separate - but keep stirring.  Add the spinach. and stir well to distribute evenly in the sauce.  Season with the white pepper blend, a pinch of nutmeg, and the oregano, then stir in the feta and Romano cheeses.   Set aside to cool while you prepare the chichen breasts for stuffing.

How I prepare a pocket for stuffing: with a very sharp boning:  with a sharp boning knike, I make a cut down the center, not all the way through, and not all the way from end to end.  I then turn the knife so that it is flat against the chicken, and carefully cut into both sides of the cut to create a pocket.

I like to use the meatball-sized scooper to portion out evenly.  Each chicken pocket took two scoops of the spinach mixture.  Pat the chicken up and around the filling, leaving some of the filling showing, as in the picture.

Now season the stuffed chicken using the ingredients listed below, in the order given.  The last thing you will do is spoon a little melted butter over everything.

Slap Ya Mama white pepper blend
Kosher Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Granulated Garlic
Fresh Lemon Juice
Seasoned Bread Crumbs
Melted Butter

Bake the chicken at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  Then take a picture and post it on Pinterest; this is a pretty, pretty dish.  Tasty, too.

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