Monday, December 16, 2013

Chicken, rice, broccoli, and cheese - but fancy!

Is it just me, or does any sort of rolled, stuffed meat seem more fancy than if you served the same things side-by-side? Take, for example, this stuffed chicken breast. It looks fancy. It looks like a lot of work. But really, it's pretty simple.

When I was chatting with Green Giant about their frozen vegetable selections and about me creating a recipe, the first thing I thought of was the frozen rice, broccoli, and cheese mix that I bought.

When I picked it up, I thought it would be interesting as a light lunch - I happen to adore rice, so it made perfect sense to me.

But then ... I don't know, maybe it was visions of Chicken Cordon Blue that entered m brainspace, but then I started thinking about stuffing the rice into some chicken breasts.

Or, I guess I wasn't really stuffing. I flattened the chicken breasts and rolled it around the filling.

If you're a little intimidated about the process, don't worry about it. Flattening chicken breasts is simple, particularly if you start with boneless, skinless breasts. And pounding on them is a great stress reliever.

Even if you're not stressed, it's kind of fun.

Cheesy Rice and Broccoli Stuffed Chicken Breasts

1 package (12 ounces) Green Giant cheesy rice and broccoli
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 9 ounces each)
Olive oil
Stock or water, as needed
1 package (7 ounces) Green Giant Steamers Antioxidant Blend (for a side dish)

Cook the cheesy rice and broccoli according to package directions, then refrigerate. It's easier to work with when it's chilled, or at least not hot.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

One at a time, put the chicken breasts in a plastic bag (this makes it easier, but isn't strictly necessary) and pound it to approximately 1/4 inch thick using the flat side of a meat mallet. No meat mallet? Use a small, heavy sauce pot or a small cast iron frying pan, or any other similar small, heavy object.

Put 1/4 of the filling onto the flattened breast and roll it up. Where you put that filling and which way you roll is up to you - make it easy on yourself. Secure the chicken so it doesn't unroll. What I did was use a metal skewer to hold it temporarily, then I used kitchen string to tie it in three places to secure the roll, then one string lengthwise to make sure the filling didn't escape from the ends.

But whatever way you want to do it is fine. Toothpicks are great. Count them, so you know how many your need to remove before you serve, and use the same number on each roll.

Heat the oil in a heavy, oven-proof pan (I used a cast iron pan) and brown the chicken on all sides, turning the pieces as needed to get a nice, even browning all around.

When the chicken has browned, turn off the heat and add water, stock, or wine so there's about an inch of liquid in the pan. How much you'll need depends on the size of the pan.

Place the pan in the oven and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Use a meat thermometer, stabbing in several places. You want to reach 160 degrees - since these are so small, there's not a lot of carryover cooking.

Remove the chicken from the pan. If you want to pan a gravy, sprinkle some flour - a tablespoon or so ought to be enough) and heat the pan on the stove until the liquid boils and the mixture thickens. Serve the chicken with the gravy.

The chicken cuts better and the filling stays in place better if it's cold, so you can refrigerate this, then slice, gently reheat (in the oven or microwave - carefully!) and serve. For a family meal, you can leave them whole or slice in half to show the inside. If a little filling falls out, it's no big deal.

I served this with another Green Giant side dish - the Antioxident Blend with broccoli, carrots, and red and yellow bell peppers. I thought it was the perfect match since it repeated the broccoli, but then added the vibrant color from the carrots and peppers. A few slices of blood orange added some fresh zip and more color.

This post is sponsored by Green Giant, but all words are my own.