Sometimes I forget about frozen spinach. I always have frozen corn and frozen peas on hand, but frozen spinach falls off the radar from time to time. The good news is that then I get to rediscover it.
When I was a kid, my mom, my sister and I used to make tray after tray of spanakopita, the Greek spinach-and-feta-stuffed phyllo triangles. My sister and I loved it, the delicate, paper-thin dough, the compact packets, the brushing with melted butter. My mom would freeze them in small packages and then cook up these rich, crispy little pastries for hors d’oeuvres when we had company. To this day, she talks about how she got so much free phyllo-folding labour out of her children.
In later years, we would make tray after tray of them for an annual event I catered, and the muscle memory was definitely there.
Here, I took the basic filling we made for all of those spanakopita and used it to stuff chicken thighs. Stuffing a savory mixture under the skin of chicken pieces is a smart way to make them feel a little dressy, and layer more flavour on to your chicken dinner.
And while it takes a few extra minutes, this is nothing compared to folding dozens of phyllo packets.
SPINACH AND FETA STUFFED CHICKEN THIGHS
Start to finish: 70 minutes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup crumbled feta
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet, or line with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
Heat the butter in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until melted. Saute the onion for 2 minutes until slightly tender, then add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach is cooked and most of the moisture is evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, if desired, and the cream, and cook for another 2 minutes until the cream has blended into the spinach. Stir in the feta until well-combined, and cool so that it’s just slightly warm or room temperature. Check for seasoning.
Loosen the skin from each chicken thigh and place a couple of tablespoons of the spinach mixture under the skin, spreading it out beneath the skin. Brush the skin with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is brown and crispy. Serve hot or warm.