Boring chicken breast gets a makeover with a stuffing made from spinach, fresh tarragon, and Swiss cheese. Baked with asparagus and served with a creamy white wine pan sauce, this healthy chicken dish makes a special weeknight dinner.
Thanks for all the comments on the Creme Brulee without a Blowtorch I shared last week. I made it again for some dinner guests this past weekend, and it was a big hit. I hope you get to try it yourself.
It also put me in the mood to create some more dessert recipes. But in the meantime, I have a healthy chicken dinner to share with you.
Let’s be honest. Boneless skinless chicken breasts are not known for their flavor.
When I was on a diet for a bodybuilding competition, I would eat plain baked chicken breast that became dried out or rubbery when I reheated it in the microwave. The funny thing is, I was hungry enough from the diet that it actually tasted good to me.
But now that I’m not dieting, I can’t eat them that way. I need to do something with them to make them taste good. One option is pounding the chicken breasts thin and smothering them in a bacon and mushroom sauce, like in my Bacon Chicken Marsala. Another option to keep white meat chicken tender and juicy is to use a yogurt marinade, like I do when I make Chicken Parmesan. A third option is to velvet the chicken, like I do with my Kung Pao Chicken.
For today’s recipe, I went with a stuffed chicken. There are four ways this recipe adds flavor to the chicken:
- From the awesome stuffing – spinach, tarragon, and melted Swiss cheese in every bite!
- From browning the chicken. I’ve seen other stuffed chicken breast recipes that have you bake the chicken without browning it first. Browning the chicken on the stove before you bake it adds flavor. With chicken breasts, I’ll take all the flavor I can get. The little bit of extra time it takes is totally worth it.
- From the cheese – I sprinkled more Swiss cheese over the browned chicken while it was baking.
- From the pan sauce – While the chicken was baking, I made a white wine and cream pan sauce, using the same skillet I used to brown the chicken.
No boring chicken breast here.
Lastly, the most important piece of advice I can give you for this recipe is not to overcook the chicken. Check it early, especially if you are using chicken breasts on the smaller side. You don’t want them to get dried out. White meat is not forgiving of overcooking.
Here are some of the main ingredients.
There are boneless skinless chicken breasts, some minced garlic, shredded Swiss cheese, white wine, and only a portion of the asparagus and spinach used. Other ingredients not pictured: olive oil, chopped tarragon, salt and pepper, butter, shallot, chicken broth, and heavy cream.
I would really like this recipe to serve one piece of chicken per person, so I specified 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts. You know, if you’re having a dinner party, you want to give someone a whole piece of chicken. It looks better on the plate than half a piece. However, I know chicken can really vary in size. From the same supermarket, I’ve bought boneless skinless chicken breasts weighing everywhere between seven and 13 ounces. I would have preferred to buy smaller ones for this recipe, but they only had larger ones available when I was shopping. So even though this recipe says it serves four, it was really six servings for us.
The varying size of chicken breasts also makes it hard to specify the cook time for the recipe. I said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you are using smaller chicken breasts, check them early to make sure you don’t overcook them.
On a different note, for the shallot, I used the food processor to mince it. I don’t have knife skills. For the pan sauce, you really want that shallot finely minced and not chopped.
Here’s the filling. That’s spinach cooked with garlic and olive oil, mixed with chopped tarragon and cheese.
Here I lined them up and stuffed them. After I took this picture, I pulled the sides closed. I didn’t use a toothpick or anything to hold them together, and I had minimal filling leak out.
Then quickly browned them.
While the chicken was baking, I made the pan sauce. You know it’s thick enough when you can scrape the pan with a wooden spoon and it will leave a trail.
Here’s the chicken out of the oven. (I just nestled the asparagus in wherever it fit.) Look at that golden brown cheese topping.
If you eat carbs, I would serve this meal with a good crusty bread. We ate it with garlic bread one night and with some leftover spaghetti another night. (By the way, I reheated the chicken in the microwave and it didn’t get dry, but if you have leftover pan sauce, it does separate with reheating.)
I hope you’ll give this recipe a try for your next spring chicken dinner.
Spinach, Tarragon, and Swiss Stuffed Chicken Breast
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 6 ounces baby spinach
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon, divided
- 1 small bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), ends trimmed, cut in half
- salt and pepper
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Swisss cheese, divided
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon tarragon. Transfer to a bowl to cool. (You can put in the freezer for a minute to expedite.)
- Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Cut a slit into the side of each piece, being careful not to cut all the way through.
- When spinach mixture has cooled down, add ¾ cup shredded cheese and stir to combine. Stuff each chicken breast with ¼ of the spinach-cheese mixture.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same skillet used for the spinach over medium-high heat. Add stuffed chicken and cook until browned on each side, 3-4 minutes per side. Turn off heat and transfer chicken to roasting pan.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and add the asparagus to the pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top of chicken. Bake 10-15 minutes longer, depending on size of the pieces, until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- While chicken is baking, make the pan sauce. In the same skillet used to brown the chicken, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until soft, 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add broth, cream, and remaining 1 tablespoon tarragon. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
- To serve: Divide chicken and asparagus between serving plates and spoon the pan sauce over chicken.
Pan sauce adapted from Sur La Table (I have a paper copy of the recipe, but I can’t find it online to link to.)