People look at me funny when I say I like airplane food and rightfully so. I mean, what’s to like about overly seasoned almost-always mushy food? On my last trip, I even wondered if there were sedatives in my lunch. What is it about airplane food that knocks me out almost instantly in an upright position? I never sleep sitting down. I’m too worried that I will sleep with my mouth open and then it’ll only be a matter of time until I start drooling.
What I mean when I say I like airplane food is I like how everything is compartmentalized and sitting in its place on a nice little tray. I kind of get a kick out of it. And it was probably this penchant for neat little packages that made me wanna stuff a chicken breast with spinach, feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes then wrap it with a bacon bow.
For this recipe, you’ll need:
4 chicken breasts
1/2 of a 4 oz. package of feta cheese
1/4 cup cream cheese
5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
10 black olives
2 cloves garlic
2 T EVOO
About 5 cups tightly packed spinach
8 strips bacon
Zest of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
roasted red pepper strips for garnish
1. Place the chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound using the flat side of a mallet. I’m telling you now, this wasn’t thin enough. If you can get it thinner without tearing it, go for it.
2. Season flattened chicken breasts with a bit of salt, fresh ground black pepper and lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. On your way back to the counter, you can preheat your oven to 190 C.
3. We can now get started on the stuffing. Chop up the garlic. Heat the EVOO in a large pan. Sauté garlic and add in spinach. Behold with amazement how it shrinks. Transfer to medium bowl.
4. Chop the olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
5. Add chopped olives and sun-dried tomatoes into the bowl with sauteed spinach. Crumble the feta cheese and add that in as well. I tasted my stuffing at this point and it was so salty I almost shrieked. Hence, the 1/4 cup cream cheese. This will later give me puzzling results. Top the stuffing mixture with a drizzle of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Mix well.
6. Retrieve chicken breasts from the fridge. We are now ready to stuff! Well, it’s really more like wrapping. Lay the chicken breast flat on a chopping board. Place a dollop of the stuffing mixture in the middle and bring the 4 corners (or what would pass as corners) of your chicken breast to the middle. You will quickly realize that the chicken breast can hold only half of what you think it can hold. Don’t get greedy. It’s important that none of the stuffing leaks out because, I don’t know, this is an exercise in neat little packages. Invert the chicken parcel so that the tucked corners are now touching the chopping board. Get 2 strips of bacon and wrap around the parcel. Top with 2 strips of roasted red peppers whichever way you like. Transfer to baking tray. I only have this one picture below for everything I’ve done in #6. If you make this dish, you’ll understand.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the bacon is browned to your liking.
The verdict: Underwhelming. Did I really even put cheese in this thing? Perhaps feta cheese should only be eaten in a salad. Or maybe there was too much cream cheese in my stuffing mixture and it muted all the other flavors. It would have been a tad better if my chicken breasts were thinner. I would have liked to brown my bacon more but I didn’t want my chicken to be dry. I initially thought these looked cute but the more I look at them, the more they look like cartoon belly buttons. My mom seems to like it but she is horribly biased towards my cooking and not to be believed.
There is no redemption. And it’s strangely similar to airplane food – not very good in a neat little package.
Fun Food Fact: The cheese produced by the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey is quite likely the direct ancestor of modern Feta. Oh wait, that’s not a fact.