This Garlic Spinach Baked Chicken comes after a long hiatus from posting. I will endeavour to be more regular this year (life willing). The cold has been biting down in these first few days of January, and what better than a gratin-style dish to warm up bellies on chilly evenings?
Leaves et al
Luscious chicken thighs and a boatload of leafy greens are at the centre of this bake. I harvested an armful of tender, sweet spinach from my winter garden, which prompted the creation of this simple dish. Garlic Spinach Baked Chicken – the name is self-explanatory but the dish also co-stars a big bunch of tender radish or daikon greens. I’m the person that just has to find use for stalks, leaves and seeds most people throw away. And so, juicy radish, beetroot and carrot leaves, cauliflower stems, pumpkin seeds for example, find their way into my food. So I combined a generous quantity of radish foliage with the spinach which gave the Garlic Spinach Baked Chicken a considerable heft of fibre, but you can go with just spinach or mix it up with greens of your choice. Cooking and recipes, in my opinion, are meant to be flexible to suit diverse tastes and comfort levels.
A little cream goes a long way
Now I know that the dish looks like it has a jug of cream; it doesn’t. If you’re a regular on my site, you’ll know that I try to make my recipes somewhat healthy by reducing the quantity of sugars and saturated fats. Moderation is my mantra in cooking and eating. That said, an occasional indulgence is allowed. Anyway, I combined milk and just a splash of light cream to make the sauce and thickened it with a tiny bit of whole wheat flour (atta). Cornflour/cornstarch, potato starch or plain flour will also do nicely. You don’t need a lot of it.
Use chicken breasts instead
If you’d like to make your Garlic Spinach Baked Chicken leaner still, use skinless chicken breasts. These are virtually devoid of fat, so they can become dry and chewy very quickly if not cooked properly. The best way to ensure that your chicken breasts have golden exteriors while remaining succulent inside, is by quickly searing them in a pan. To do this, slice each breast horizontally in half, lightly dust each slice with seasoned flour, and sear them flat on a medium-high flame for no longer than 2-3 minutes per side. This will seal-in the juices and they will remain moist after baking in the oven.
Garlic Spinach Baked Chicken
- 500 g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 300 g spinach, roughly chopped
- 150 g radish or other greens, roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 large, fat garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp sharp, whole grain mustard
- 4 tbsp parmesan, grated
- 200 ml toned milk
- 50 ml light cream
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- black pepper, freshly grated
- Preheat the oven to 180℃. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan on medium flame and sear the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side till lightly golden. Take care not to crowd the pan, fry in batches, Place the chicken in a single layer in a baking dish.
- In the same pan, add the remaining oil, lower the flame and saute the onions until they're soft and translucent. Grate in the garlic and thyme, cook for 30 seconds.
- Tip in the greens and season with salt. Cook them till the water dries up. Add the mustard.
- Cook for 10 seconds add the milk followed by the flour. Stir well ensuring there are no lumps. Once the sauce starts thickening, add the cream and mix well. Season with fresh black pepper. Check the salt, add if needed. Cook sauce to desired, creamy consistency.
- Pour the spinach sauce over the chicken to cover all the thighs evenly. Sprinkle grated parmesan all over, cover the dish with foil and bake for 25-30 mins. The chicken should be cooked by then and the internal temperature should be 74℃. Check with a thermometer of use a sharp knife to pierce the chicken. If the juices are clear, it's cooked, pink juice means that it needs a little more time.
- Remove the foil, increase the temperature to 220℃ and place the dish under the broiler (5 mins) till the top is golden. Serve warm.