Cream Chicken and Spinach Hand Sandwiches

I used to make these all of the time when I was working nights.  They freeze and reheat in the microwave like a dream.  They also come together relatively quick for a yeast recipe.  In fact, the batch that you see before you was completed in about an hour and a half with a two-year-old underfoot and a seven-month-old in hand, who insisted she was starving to death after waking up from her nap.  Also, add in a little extra time for photography, once you get the knack you can make these in an hour.

Different fillings work well also, this one just happens to be my favorite.  The key is making sure whatever your “sauce” is, is not too thin or it will absorb into the crust.

The dough:

This is also my pizza dough recipe and can be made with only water.  The milk makes a more tender crust in this case.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup warm water (when I say warm, I mean like you would warm a baby bottle)

1/4 cup warm milk

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water and milk.  Let it proof for about 5-10 minutes.  The yeast should look a little foamy, and like there is more of it.

Add the olive oil, flour and salt.  Mix in your stand mixer on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until the dough comes together.  If it seems very dry add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it looks like a dough ball.  If the dough seems a little sticky knead it on a lightly floured surface until smooth.  Luck was on my side today and the dough was perfect in the mixer.

Cover (I use waxed paper since it doesn’t stick to the dough) and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.

While the yeast is working its magic, we now have time to create the filling.  This is perfect for leftover rotisserie chicken or that extra chicken breast that is floating around.

If you are using rotisserie chicken, skip the part about cooking the chicken breast, just make sure your chicken is chopped up fairly fine.

The filling:

2 small chicken breasts chopped fine (or 1 1/2 cups leftover chicken)

Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder

1/2 small onion, chopped fine

3-4 cups fresh baby spinach (or 1 box thawed frozen spinach, well drained.)

Red pepper flakes

4 oz (half a block) cream cheese

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder (1/8th teaspoon).  Cook the chicken just until it is no longer pink.  Do not over cook it, you are going to cook the chicken again later.  Remove the chicken from the pan.  I suggest putting it in a bowl much larger than you think you will need.  It will save you a dish and energy shortly.

Add a little butter to the pan and the onions.  Saute just until the onions start to soften and add a couple pinches of red pepper flakes.  You can add as much or as little as you like.  Hot sauce would also work here.  You will want a little kick of something or the filling may be too rich for you.

Add a little bit of water carefully to the onions, if you are using pre-cooked chicken use a little chicken stock for extra flavor if you have it.  Add the spinach right on top and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.

Spinach will give off a lot of water as it cooks and will reduce down to almost nothing, but it needs somewhere to get started, thus the extra water.  Plus the liquid will “deglaze” the pan, bringing up all those little bits of flavor.

Once your spinach is cooked down and no longer watery add the cream cheese. Stir until the cream cheese is melted and everything looks creamy.  Essentially at this point, you are making spinach dip.  I am in love with spinach dip, but that is another recipe.

Add the spinach to your chicken in the big bowl along with  your grated mozzarella.  Mix it all together.  Taste it to see if you need more salt or spice.  Set it aside to cool a little while we go back to our dough.

Divide the dough into six even(ish) pieces.

Lightly flour your rolling pin and working surface.  Roll your first piece of dough a little in your hands so it is about 4 inches long.  Use your rolling pin to make it into a rectangular shape.  Your rectangle should end up being about 9 inches long by 4 inches wide, but may vary.  The dough should also be about 1/8th of an inch thick.

Fill with about 1/4 cup (mine was a very full 1/4 cup, I measured just for you!).  Fold the short ends up so they are just over lapping the filling.  Then bring one long side over the filling and the second long side over the first.  Pinch to make a seal so all that cheesy goodness stays inside.  Place “seam-side” down on a non-stick or greased cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining five.  Should you have extra filling, it is excellent with tortilla chips while you wait for these to bake.

Pre-heat your oven to 400’F (use convection if you have it).  While the oven is pre-heating your dough will rise a little.  Brush with melted butter or if you want a nice dark shiny crust, a little egg wash.  Cut one or two small, shallow slits in the dough, just for a small amount of steam to escape.

Bake for about 12-16 minutes or until the dough is golden brown to your liking (remember your chicken is already cooked, this is just to cook the dough).

Brush again with a little butter if desired and enjoy!  If you plan to freeze these, allow them to cool completely and then put into a freezer bag.


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