Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Conquering January with chicken roll-ups and pasta with breadcrumbs
We had a cold spell. Not your namby-pamby cold spell that I read about in other parts of the country. The kind where the thermometer dips to -16 degrees F (Not including wind chill. Although I am still convinced "wind chill" is a diabolical plot to intimidate...) Air - hurts. It's the coldest we've been in 4 years. I had happily forgotten those winters of yore. Going with the "glass is half-full" philosophy, there are upsides to this cold. Peasant food! I love it. Crave it .... pasta... bread...cheese - all accented with some wild greens. Beans simmering, aromas promising... warmth.
When you need to put on two pairs of sock, long underwear and four upper layers before your jacket, hat and mittens just to walk down the driveway to pick up the mail - you know you are burning calories. So let's consume some.
Chicken rolls stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach*
from Cucina Povera (my best friend in the winter months) by Pamela Sheldon Johns
*The original recipe does this with pork cutlets - it works equally well with either
Serves 4 (generously)
8 ounces spinach, steamed and chopped (or drain frozen)
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
sea salt and freshly grated pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
8 chicken cutlets - pounded thin
8 slices pancetta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta and spinach. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg to taste. (I might add that a little crushed red pepper or some fresh herbs would also do well here.) Pound cutlets to 1/8 inch. Spread a thin layer of the spinach mixture on chicken leaving 1/4" border. Roll it, wrap with a slice of pancetta and keep in place with a toothpick or two. Repeat.
In a large, heavy saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and sear the roll-ups about two minutes on each side. (I did four at a time and set them aside.) Add wine and stir to scrape up browned bits. Return roll-ups to pan and simmer briskly for about 7-8 minutes (mine took about 12 minutes) turning them a few times to cook them through. Serve at once.
I would consider placing them under a broiler next time to crisp up the pancetta.
In the true days of yore, this is a lot of meat for peasant cooking. But the original pork is more economical and the pancetta would keep the meat moist during the cooking process.
"Carpo pieno, anima consolata." If your stomach is full, your spirit will be calm. And I might add - warm.