- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

For St. Patrick’s Day, revelers can choose to hoist a pint of Irish ale or add a little green to their cooking. Many do both.

An alcoholic toast makes for a lively celebration, but for sustenance, nothing beats an entree that includes healthful greens. Kale, Swiss chard and fistfuls of parsley will all give St. Patrick’s Day dishes their distinctive verdant hue. For my taste, spinach is the best bet.

Lightly cooked spinach keeps its vibrant green color and delicate flavor. Spinach has another edge as a vegetable ingredient for a St. Patrick’s Day meal. Unlike some vegetables that fight spirits, the slightly sweet taste of spinach goes well with a brew.

You can find a wealth of spinach recipes to choose from, starting with a spinach omelet for breakfast and ending with a dinner featuring poultry or seafood in a spinach sauce. This St. Patrick’s Day, serve a rich dish of chicken breasts stuffed with chive-flavored goat cheese on a bed of creamed spinach.

Although this recipe requires several steps, you and your dinner companion can sip black velvet, a drink of equal parts champagne and Guinness stout, as you cook. Don’t use champagne you wouldn’t want to drink straight, but don’t use your anniversary best on this drink, either.

Stuffed chicken breasts with spinach

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 ounces mild goat cheese

2 tablespoons milk, divided

1 tablespoon minced chives

2 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves

1 egg

Salt and pepper

½ cup coarse bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chicken broth

1/4 cup half-and-half

1 teaspoon flour

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh baby spinach

Sprinkle pine nuts in a medium skillet and toast over medium-high heat for 30 seconds or until lightly browned.

Watch carefully. Quickly remove from pan when done.

Stir together goat cheese, 1 tablespoon milk and chives in a bowl. Split each chicken breast half widthwise almost in half to create a large, thin slice.

Spread half the goat cheese mixture over one side of each slice. Fold over to enclose the cheese. Press edges to seal.

Beat egg with salt and pepper to taste, and remaining 1 tablespoon milk in a shallow bowl. Spread crumbs on a plate. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in crumbs, patting to cover chicken.

Heat butter and oil together in skillet. Add chicken and brown over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Reduce heat to low. Cover skillet and cook 3 minutes per side, or until cooked through to the center. Remove chicken and keep warm.

Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Scrape up any browned bits in skillet.

Stir together half-and-half and flour. Reduce heat to medium. Add half-and-half and bring to a simmer, stirring until slightly thickened. Add nutmeg and spinach.

Cook for 2 minutes or until spinach is tender.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, spoon spinach and sauce onto a plate and top with chicken. Makes 2 servings.


Black velvet

12 ounces Guinness stout, chilled

12 ounces champagne, chilled

Pour stout and champagne in equal parts into 2 tall glasses or mugs. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.


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