What’s Cooking This Week in the Dinner Diva’s Kitchen
There are two different cooking styles in my kitchen when making homemade recipes — Hers (Chef Mary’s) and His (wannabe Chef Mark’s).
In the Dinner Diva’s kitchen this week, I selected a spinach-and-sausage-stuffed chicken recipe by Jacques Pepin for my French-style entrée.
For his, Mark chose a dry fish coconut curry with kaffir lime leaves and coconut cream, or gaeng choo chee plaa, from an e-cookbook we purchased from www.ThaiFoodSecrets.com. You can find a similar dry curry recipe for panang curry here.
Mark cooked his with sea bass and made his own curry using a granite mortar and pestle instead of the just using local curry paste.
This was milder than the traditional curries in Thailand, but still very flavorful.
Learning How to Debone Chicken
This week I needed to practice deboning a whole chicken. It was optional in practical #9 in the Le Cordon Bleu kitchen when we worked with small game hens. Because of the time constraint I chose to practice this technique at home and focus on roasting the perfect chicken in class. At school I learned I needed to heavily season my herb-butter rather than the outside of the bird for the best results.
I found this video of Pepin to walk me through deboning a whole chicken in preparation for stuffing it and making what the French call “ballotine chicken.” I followed Jacques’ method and then slightly modified the simple stuffing recipe. In Bangkok, I have such a small oven and there are only two of us, so I only stuffed and baked half of the deboned chicken, but the recipe below is for a whole bird.
Homemade Spinach, Cheese and Bread Stuffed Chicken Recipe
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 5 ounces baby spinach, wilted
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup of grated cheese
- 1½ cups bread cubes
Dinner Diva notes:
- Pepin calls for gruyere or mozzarella cheese; I used what I had on hand — ½ gouda and ½ white cheddar.
- I used leftover bread I had in my freezer — a wonderful German-style brown rye bread. I believe any fresh bread will do rather than dry breadcrumbs we Americans are so found of.
- Since I had some homemade sausage from one of my cooking classes at school on hand, I added that into my stuffed chicken. This is optional.
- Wilt the spinach in a large, non-stick skillet with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool. Drain the spinach to keep the filling from being too wet and watery.
- Season the inside of the deboned chicken.
- Spread the cooled spinach over the inside of the chicken.
- Top the spinach with about ½ cup of the crumbled, cooked sausage (optional).
- Top the sausage with the grated cheese.
- Top the cheese with the cubed bread or croutons.
- Fold one side of the chicken over to the center and roll the chicken up into a nice loaf shape, keeping the filling inside. I use a sheet of plastic wrap to help with the rolling.
- Tie the chicken with string to help it keep its shape while baking.
- If you’re not ready to bake it right away, you can set the stuffed chicken aside in the refrigerator, just remember to let it sit out at room temperature for at least 30-40 minutes before baking for best results.
- Once you’re ready to bake, season the outside of the chicken and add a dash of olive or vegetable oil to the outside to help with browning.
- Use a heavy-duty baking dish or cast iron skillet that is appropriate for the size of your chicken.
- Bake at 400 degrees F (or 200 degrees C) for 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of your chicken.
Although the first video of Pepin that I found is what inspired my recipe and is very descriptive about how to do the process, I also found one of him on the Rachael Ray Show where he debones a chicken in two minutes! Very impressive and just goes to show how fast you can get with practice.
Mary Hathaway, owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.