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.

Pasta! Breadcrumbs! What's not to like? In keeping with my "consume calories to beat the cold," I served the chicken with a simple spaghetti with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Now that's "warm blanket food," isn't it? Pasta and bread. How many more carbs can I add to a carb dish? I toasted some croutons, threw them in the food processor and then did all to taste. (Spaghetti, toasted breadcrumbs, freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italian herbs, a little olive oil and some of the wine sauce from the chicken.)

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.


Mister Meatball said...

It's impossible to have too many carbs.

But you knew that.

Barbara F. said...

This is the most delicious sounding meal, I have that cookbook, won it from Marie's blog Proud Italian Cook. I need to make these two dishes. Soon! Stay warm. It is bitterly cold here too, not as bad as where you are. I heard that it is 66 degrees in Colorado, a suburb of Denver. What's up with that?? xo

Arlene Delloro said...

I keep promising not to buy any new cookbooks, but that one certainly sounds like an exception. What a great meal and since it was 6 degrees here this morning, I wish I'd seen it sooner.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Yikes! -16 F? That's cold. I used to like in Milwaukee, where it'd sometimes get about that cold (usually it was warmer). That's just miserable. But this wonderful dish is a great antidote for the cold! Love the flavors. I haven't heard of that cookbook - I'll definitely have to check it out. Thanks for the recipe.

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

I think if its that cold and you can still cook something that looks this spectacular I would put up with the misery! Awesome job Claudia! Your alter ego Claudia!

Kathy said...

Claudia, This morning my thermometer read 8 degrees…not including wind chill! I feel your chill!
This dish looks perfect for a cold night in the NE! Love your photo…I wish I could reach into my computer and take a piece! Looks scrumptious!

Velva said...

I know your part of the country has been like a frozen tundra-ugh. I can definitely send Florida sunshine and warmth your way.

I can't think of a better way to spend a freezing cold day than in the kitchen-for me that would equate to a rainy day here in North Florida.

Love your rustic dishes.

Stay warm.


Gina Stanley said...

My joints are aching just thinking about that cold. I feel for you, but I think you are on the right track with the carb loading. He He. I think the coldest we've had here so far was 20 something at night, still too cold to us. I love your stuffed chicken, we've been eating a ton of it because my husband. So I'm needing some new ideas. Keep warm.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I like your thinking, consume the calories to fight the cold! It's freezing here, windchill and all. I knew you were a girl after my own heart!

CQUEK said...

Great mixture of textures and flavours – love it!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wind chill? 16 degrees? Makes you want to book a flight to the Caribbean. OR make these comforting foods like you did. I've made that chicken recipe from Pamela's cookbook and it is terrific.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

So far the winter has been pretty mild, but it is definitely not over. This is a very comforting dish perfect for these stay inside days.

Delectably Green said...

I hope you're keeping warm! these chicken roll ups looks delicious :)
Mary x

Beth said...

I started reading your post with the certainty of a Canadian who thinks she's pretty tough. But minus 16 fahrenheit? You win, my friend. Keep warm, and enjoy your wonderful food.

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

We're colder than we've been in 2 years, but nothing like MN temps! I think I need this cookbook...your chicken looks marvelous!!!

Gloria Baker said...

Claudia I love these chicken roll ups!!

Reeni said...

This is a meal to warm my carb-loving soul inside and out! We hit our first real cold spell of the winter this week. Craving pasta big-time!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What great food for a frigid night. There is enough fuel there to get me through to, at least, breakfast :-).
Stay warm. Have a good day. Blessings...Mary

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a mouthwatering meal! I love pasta with bread crumbs, spinach, ricotta and chicken. Now, I'm hungry like a bear!



Chiara said...

What a tasty recipe Claudia, I will try !Have a nice weekend, kisses...

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Joanne said...

This is the perfect cold weather january meal!

Angie's Recipes said...

The filling looks so great!

FOODESSA said...

You and I have a love for Ricotta and all that's become better due to its adaptability to soooo many delicious meals. This one is right up my kitchen lane.
Thanks for bringing on my Sunday appetite a little earlier than usual ;o)

Have a great week,

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Claudia, I have not been a good friend or blog reader lately due to all the preperation and stress of moving--I missed this post and your birthday post! Happy belated birthday--it sounds like it was av ery special one--I'll be having the same in a few months! You've made so many wonderful pasta dishes on these post--I could live on pasta!