Monday, January 25, 2010

Stuffed Chicken/Eggplant Parmesan

Awhile back, a good friend of mine asked me to teach him how to cook. It's a pretty good set-up, I get to co-cook and eat delicious food while he buys the groceries :) For those who started reading way back at my intro, you know that I'm a vegetarian but I occasionally cook meat for those carnivorously inclined. Nate, the culinary neophyte in question, had frozen chicken breasts that he wanted to use, so I pulled out this recipe. It was a big hit two years ago at what was the start of many dinner parties with friends and I wanted to try my hand at adapting it for vegetarians.
*I store my flour in an old coffee container, this isn't actually coffee in this recipe!

Admittedly, this isn't a normal any-night-of-the-week dinner for one recipe. It takes some time and, if you have to buy all of the ingredients, can be somewhat pricey (though certainly no more expensive than dinner at Olive Garden, which is where this recipe comes from). This is a great recipe for a dinner party or trying to impress someone with a romantic dinner. The tv commercials have been out in force for the last few weeks, reminding us that there's an obnoxiously gushy Hallmark holiday coming up soon, so keep this in mind if you're looking to stay in but still impress.

A note about substitutions: I made a lot of them. The first time I made this recipe, I followed the ingredients to the letter and it was fantastic. Since then, I've become more comfortable substituting comparable things and seeing what new flavors come from them. I had leftover Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, so I used those rather than buying new provolone or Gouda and mozzarella. Marsala wine has a very distinctive flavor, and tints the sauce red, but it's a cooking wine only... rather than waste money on something I can't also enjoy with dinner, my friend and I decided to try a nice bottle of red wine and use that in the sauce instead. This did turn the sauce more purple than red, but it was still delicious and a nice compromise for those of us who are cash strapped.

Stuffed Chicken or Eggplant Marsala, adapted from The Olive Garden
Serves 4

Cheese Stuffing
1/2 cup smoked shredded cheese (provolone or gouda) 
8-oz package mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomato flakes (drain first if in oil)
1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup sour cream (6 oz)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced lengthwise
24 fl oz Marsala wine
8 fl oz heavy cream
2 small containers button mushrooms, thinly sliced (6 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste

2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts*
4 fl oz olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
*Perhaps the biggest change was making half of it using eggplant instead of chicken. I would recommend peeling the eggplant before cooking it because it can otherwise be touch to cut. Slice the eggplant into four slices, length-wise, and fill similarly to the chicken. Cook in olive oil but skip the dredging in flour step.
Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

1) COMBINE all cheese stuffing ingredients in a mixing bowl.
2) BUTTERFLY thickest section of chicken breasts to create 2 lobes. Pound each breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap until ¼” - ½” thick.
3) PLACE flattened chicken breasts on a plate and place desired amount of stuffing on one lobe of each chicken breast. Gently press stuffing down so it resembles a hockey puck.
4) FOLD over other lobe of chicken breast; does not have to seal.
5) HEAT large sauté pan over medium heat.
6) ADD olive oil and heat until shimmering.
7) PLACE flour in a shallow pan and season to taste with salt and pepper.

8) DREDGE stuffed chicken breasts in flour, shaking off excess.

9) SAUTE chicken breasts with preheated oil, cooking until each side is golden brown.
10) REMOVE chicken from pan and place in a baking dish.
11) BAKE for 10-20 minutes, or until juices run clean and center of chicken reaches 165°F.
12) ADD onions to sauté pan, and stir to loosen chicken drippings. After 2 minutes, add mushrooms and sauté until onions are translucent.
13) DEGLAZE pan with Marsala wine – make sure to incorporate drippings from bottom of pan.

14) HEAT wine to a simmer and add heavy cream. Simmer on low heat until reduced by half.
15) PLACE cooked chicken breasts on a plate and top each with onions, mushrooms and sauce.


  1. Okay, Carolyn, you've inspired me! I will make this recipe for a romantic Feb 14th-ish meal with my favorite pilot. Thanks and stay tuned for results...Martha P.

  2. Reading this blog makes me hungry...

  3. I didn't know Scott had read your blog yet, but I DID make the chicken and it was delicious. I didn't have all ingredients on hand so I changed it up a little bit, but kept the sauce the same, which was the star of the show. Thanks for the inspiration! Martha