Although this dish is intended to stuff chicken, it is also quite good on its own as a side dish. The goat cheese is a nice option, but the dish is fine without it. Pine nuts work fine in lieu of pistachios. This stuffing works great in whole chickens, chicken breasts, pork chops, fish, or even big pasta shells.
6 cups (about 2 bunches) spinach, stemmed and washed
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, torn into bits, or sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced paper thin
2 medium onions, diced finely
1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
1/2 cup (or more) shelled pistachio nuts
Juice from 2 lemons
2-4 tablespoons lemon infused olive oil such as Olio delle Colline from Aptos or Agrumato from Italy
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh savory or marjoram, chopped
10 rosemary needles, minced
1 pinch mace
Olive oil as needed
3 ounces soft goat cheese (optional)
Blanch the spinach in plenty of boiling water in a large pot just to wilt; immediately drain, and then plunge into ice water until chilled. Remove from water as soon as spinach is chilled, and drain. Dry on paper towels, then mince.
Sauté the oyster mushrooms in a little oil until tender and crisped a little on the edges. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan and reserve.
Add oil to the pan and when hot, add the rosemary, then sauté the onions to caramelize them. When they are quite tender, add the garlic and sauté until very soft and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a large non-reactive bowl.
Mix the spinach into the onions, using fingers to “fluff” the spinach and spread it out. Add the mushrooms and mix well. Add in the bread crumbs and toss to mix. Season well with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the herbs and spices. Pour the lemon juice over the stuffing and mix in. Drizzle over the oil and incorporate. Add the nuts, then taste the “stuffing” for balance of flavors. If you are going to use the cheese, carefully add it now in little pieces.
If you are using this as stuffing, use now or refrigerate until ready to use. If using as a side dish, heat in an oiled casserole dish at 350°F for 10-15 minutes or until hot through and the cheese is soft and a little runny and the visible breadcrumbs are golden and getting crunchy.
- Feel free to substitute other nuts. Pinenuts, roasted almonds, or roasted hazelnuts are excellent choices.
- The goat cheese is nice for the bit of funk it adds to the flavor, and the richness can be a nice contrast to the acid of the lemon and the tannins that spinach sometimes has. The cheese should be a very mild fresh one. If you do not want to use goat cheese, try mascarpone, ricotta, or fresh mozzarella.
YIELD: Stuffs 1 3½-pound chicken, or is good for a side dish for 4