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Jude's Kitchen: fit for a Valentine

Stuff a chicken breast for a special Valentine meal. - judie steeves/Capital News
Stuff a chicken breast for a special Valentine meal.
— image credit: judie steeves/Capital News

Food is an important part of a celebration for those you love. In fact, love is an important ingredient in any recipe. I love to cook for people I love.

So, special foods are in order for a St. Valentine’s Day dinner.

With that in mind, my sweetie and I did some early experimenting so I could offer you a suggestion for something nice to serve for a Valentine’s Day dinner, and we found both of the experiments were pretty good, so I’ve included them below.

Historically, the facts don’t support any link between actual saints named Valentine and the professions of love for which Feb. 14 is now known, but don’t let that stop you from having fun.

Although traditionally it’s a day for sending love letters, I’m just as enthusiastic about making chocolate hearts for members of my family as a symbol of my love for them. (See next week’s column for that recipe…or pick up a copy of my book, Jude’s Kitchen.)

Romantic dinners are another tradition and one that holds even more interest for me than inedible pieces of red, heart-shaped paper, even if there are sweet words on that paper.

I’m sure many lovers and valentines will agree with me, so if you’re not taking your valentine out to dinner for Valentine’s Day, do have a nice, intimate dinner together where you can discuss your hopes and dreams or reminisce about the good times you’ve been through together.

I always think a fondue is the ideal Valentine’s Day meal because of the perfect opportunity it presents to linger over a slowly-cooked meal, maintain eye contact over the pot of bubbling food, and tangle your forks. Remember that if you should lose your bit of food off your fork into the pot, you must kiss your sweetie.

Whatever you do or however you celebrate the upcoming St. Valentine’s Day, have fun and spread the love.

Spinach & Chorizo-stuffed Chicken

We couldn’t decide which flavours we wanted in our filling, so we tried two different ones, but used the same base. If you make both, use half the amount of the second half of the filling, to the amount of the base. We tried fresh, local Okanagan chicken from Johnny’s Meats and were really impressed by the moist, large breasts and the flavour. The price was comparable to other stores.

2-4 chicken breasts

salt and fresh-ground black pepper

1 chorizo sausage

4 green onions

4 c. (1 l) baby spinach leaves

drizzle of oil

Open up the chicken breasts by using a sharp knife, held parallel to your cutting surface, to slice into the thickest portion of the breast, but do not cut all the way through. Open it up and repeat with the others. The number of breasts depends on their size and the number you’re feeding. Four small or two large would be about right for this amount of filling.

Very gently, pound out the breasts so they are a consistent thickness and season with salt and pepper.

Cut chorizo sausage (a hot Italian sausage) lengthwise into four sticks, then chop them up to make about 3/4 of a cup of bits.

Trim and chop the green onions and clean and slice up the spinach.

Heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat in an oven-safe frypan and add the sausage bits. Cook for about five or so minutes (if your chorizo is fatty, drain it off at this point) and add the green onions and spinach, cooking and giving the occasional stir until the spinach has just wilted down. Remove from the heat.

Cool and divide amongst the flattened chicken pieces.

Now you have to decide whether to make the Mediterranean or Italian versions of these stuffed breasts.

Mediterranean

This has a much stronger flavour, but we liked it the best.

6 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil

6 tbsp. (90 ml) crumbled feta cheese

1 tsp. (5 ml) basil from a tube

or a handful of fresh leaves

drizzle of oil

olive oil or proscuitto

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Mince the tomatoes and arrange over the chorizo mixture, then crumble the feta cheese evenly over top. Squeeze basil from a tube, or use fresh leaves over the top.

Roll up or fold over the breast on top of the stuffing and secure with a toothpick, if needed.

Heat a drizzle more oil in the frypan over medium-high heat and briefly brown the stuffed breasts,  turning once, and ending with the top up.

Spray the top with olive oil, or drape a thin slice of proscuitto on top of each.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts. Don’t overcook.

Slice to serve.

Serves 4.

Italian

This was delicious as well, but a more delicate flavour, ramped up with the spicy chorizo. You could substitute different Italian cheeses, such as romano or fresh parmesan to add a little more flavour to this.

2 tbsp. (30 ml) fresh, flat-leaf parsley

1 large garlic clove

1/2 c. (125 ml) grated provolone cheese

drizzle of oil

olive oil or proscuitto

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Mince the parsley and the garlic and grate the cheese.

Arrange each evenly over the chorizo mixture on the chicken and roll up or fold over the breast, enclosing the filling. Secure with a toothpick, if needed.

Heat a drizzle more oil in the frypan over medium-high heat and briefly brown the stuffed breast, turning once, ending with the top up.

Spray with olive oil or drape a thin slice of proscuitto on top of each.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts. Don’t overcook.

Slice to serve.

Serves 4.

 

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