Mediterranean Diet Recipes: Cretan Chicken Dishes

Grilling and braising are the most popular ways to cook meats in Crete; combined with fresh herbs and spices and traditional foods such as yogurt, cheese, and olives, these techniques create chicken dishes with a whole lot of flavor.

Sautéed Chicken Breasts in Red Wine Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Four 4-ounce bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 a medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup black kalamata olives, pitted

One 14.8-ounce can tomatoes, chopped

1 cup spicy red wine, such as a red Zinfandel

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons mint, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the chicken with 2 tablespoons oil and season with the salt and pepper.

  2. Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy ovenproof (preferably cast-iron) Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on each side for 4 minutes and remove them from the pan and set aside.

  3. Add the fennel seeds, celery, onion, and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the red pepper flakes and olives, cook for 1 minute, and return the chicken to the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir in the wine.

  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Top the chicken with the parsley and mint and serve.

Per serving: Calories 343 (From Fat 175); Fat 19g (Saturated 3g); Cholesterol 50mg; Sodium 649mg; Carbohydrate 12g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 20g.

Roasted Rice-Stuffed Chicken

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 2 hours

Yield: 10 servings

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup green olives

1 cup wild rice

One 5- pound whole skinless chicken, giblets removed

2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 cups dry white wine

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat for 1 minute; add the onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan.

  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the olives and rice, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 40 minutes or until the rice absorbs the liquid.

  4. Meanwhile, place the chicken onto a roast rack. Rub the inside cavity with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Combine the lemon zest, salt, pepper, and paprika. Rub the chicken with the spice mixture and brush with the remaining olive oil.

  5. Stuff the chicken with the rice mixture and pour the wine over the chicken.

  6. Bake uncovered for 1-1/2 hours until both the chicken and the rice reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees (begin checking the internal temperature at 1 hour) and the juices run clear from the breast. Baste the chicken every 20 minutes.

  7. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes prior to cutting into the meat. Remove the rice from the cavity and place into a serving bowl. Serve 2 to 3 ounces of chicken over 1/2 cup of rice.

Per serving: Calories 305 (From Fat 97); Fat 11g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 70mg; Sodium 324mg; Carbohydrate 18g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 25g.

If rice doesn’t completely fit into the cavity, bake the extra in a heat-proof baking dish next to the chicken during the last 20 minutes of baking.

Chicken Breasts with Spinach and Feta

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings

Four 6-ounce boneless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 of a medium onion, chopped

One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted

1/2 cup parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Nonstick cooking spray

1 lemon, cut into wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Cut the chicken breasts lengthwise to butterfly and create a pocket for stuffing. Cut deep enough into the breast to create a large enough pocket to accommodate the stuffing, but don’t cut all the way through.

  3. In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Wring out the spinach to remove any excess liquid and add it, the parsley, and oregano to the pan.

  4. Heat the spinach mixture for 5 minutes and remove it from the heat, straining off any additional liquid. Stir in the crumbled feta.

  5. Using a spoon, stuff the chicken breasts with the spinach mixture. Place the stuffed chicken breasts onto a baking sheet and spray them lightly with cooking spray.

  6. Bake the chicken for 40 to 45 minutes or until cooked completely. Slice the chicken to display the stuffing and serve with the lemon wedges.

Per serving: Calories 188 (From Fat 62); Fat 7g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 78mg; Sodium 240mg; Carbohydrate 5g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 27g.

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