Recipe: Baked Chicken with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Wilted Spinach

I came across this recipe while looking for dinner ideas for earlier this week and loved the flavor palate it featured. Sweet pears and tangy blue cheese are a fantastic combination and perfect for the fall, and combined with lightly seasoned chicken breasts and wilted spinach, they make for a light, filling meal. This meal is very easy to pull together and topped with some lightly toasted walnuts, for added texture and crunch, it’s absolutely delicious.

The dish, sans walnuts, because, to be honest, it wasn’t until I sat down with the dish in front of me that I realized that walnuts were just what the dish needed to be just right.

Serves: 4-6
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thickness (I serve each person 1/2 chicken breast and that’s more than enough)
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • Olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of a few pans)
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 4-6 cups (1 large bunch) loosely packed spinach (stems removed) or 3-5 cups baby spinach, washed and dried (I used regular spinach, but baby spinach would also work and it’s a lot easier to clean and handle)
  • 2 ripe D’Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 – 1 inch thick slices (I just cut the peeled pear in half, then cut slices/wedges out of each half and cut off the bit of core on each piece)
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles (I bought a small container, garnished each plate with a spoonful or two, and put the rest on the table so more could be added if desired)
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts (spread walnuts out on a baking sheet and bake for just a few minutes at 350*F in the oven, until fragrant and slightly golden-brown)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a medium, oven-safe skillet/pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet, cooking just enough to brown each side. Remove the skillet from the heat and place it in the oven, then bake the chicken for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. While the chicken is baking, heat a little olive oil in a large pan and add the red onion, cooking until the pieces are slightly tender. Toss the spinach in and cook until it wilts (it should darken in color and “shrink” up)—if you’re using regular spinach, make sure to thoroughly wash the leaves before cooking them because they tend to have a lot of sand and dirt on them and that’s no fun to bite into. Once the spinach is wilted, plate it on dinner plates and set aside. Wipe out the pan and add in 1 tbsp. olive oil and the apple cider vinegar and heat over medium or medium-low heat. Toss the pears in and cook until they are heated through and slightly browned on both sides. Add the parsley in and toss to coat, then remove from heat. Plate the chicken breasts atop the spinach, place a few pieces of pear over and around the chicken, and sprinkle the dish with blue cheese crumbles and toasted walnuts.

This dish is wonderful for an autumn meal and can easily be served casually or plated formally and served at a dinner party, as the flavors of the blue cheese and pears add a certain degree of elegance to the dish. The various components of the dish all tie into each other wonderfully, creating a well-balanced and well-flavored dish.

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