The truth is, I’ve been wanting to tell you about this chicken roulade recipe for over a week now—ever since last Tuesday, when I pulled chicken out of the fridge and wondered what to make for dinner. I’d gone through all the usual options in my mind, things I’ve had before, things I’ve made, but nothing sounded like it would be worth the high price tag of the Amish, antibiotic-free poultry I’ve been buying, nothing until this beautiful, impressive chicken roulade.
Chicken roulade, if you’ve never heard of it, is essentially rolled chicken: the meat gets pounded and flattened into a large surface area; topped with cheese and a filling made of greens, onions, dried fruit, and nuts; rolled tightly; tied up with string; browned and baked. When it’s finished, you slice the bundled breasts into slices stuffed with flavor and color, and it’s the kind of thing that makes you go wow.
This version comes from the lovely Angela of Spinach Tiger: she’d posted it as an idea for a spring picnic back in April; I’m posting it as a weeknight dinner in December. That’s what’s great about this dish: it’s versatile. Not only is it timely year-round, but it’s also adaptable to the ingredients you like and/or have on hand, whether type of greens, nuts, dried fruit, or cheese.
As for why it’s taken me more than a week to post here, all I can say is I’m sorry. I could say I’ve been busy, but then so are you, and you’re reading this. I could say it’s the holidays, but truthfully my family’s Christmas is pretty low-key. So the best explanation I can give you is the same one I’m always giving, it seems: I didn’t know what to say.
I keep wanting to tell you about how things are going around here, I mean beyond chicken roulade for dinner, but the words just don’t come. Do you ever feel like that? Like you’re full of stories but speechless? Sometimes you just have to wait it out. But sometimes, in blogging at least, when you’ve already posted the series of photos to Flickr and already typed up the adapted recipe and then still have nothing else beyond that, you just admit it.
So it’s like this: If we were on the phone today, you and me, or sitting across a table, or pounding some chicken breasts together while we worked on dinner, this is what I’d tell you: right now, even as we do this, there are a lot of things I’m trying not to think about, things like worry and doubt that I feel like I fight more often lately. And I’d say there are other things, things like these, which I’m repeating to myself over and over again. I’d say I’m, as always, overwhelmed by good gifts, don’t misunderstand, but hey, how about you talk for a while? And you could do me the favor of telling me about your day and what you’re doing for Christmas and how much you’ve whittled down on your shopping list. We could also make roasted carrots—baked for about an hour with coconut oil and drizzles of maple syrup—and maybe a salad loaded with vegetables.
And then, when we were done, I’d say, let’s eat.
Adapted from Spinach Tiger
Serves about four.
Notes about this recipe: I really wish I had used Pecorino cheese like Angela did, but I was trying to work with what I had on hand, and that was mozzarella—I would def do the Pecorino next time. Also, although I used spinach, I think chard would give a sharper flavor contrast.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, flattened*
Olive oil for browning meat
Flour (I used white spelt)
1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons nuts (Angela used pine nuts; I used slivered almonds)
2 teaspoons dried fruit (I used cranberries), soaked in water
1 bunch spinach (or chard), washed and chopped finely
2 teaspoons pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated
Sea salt, black pepper to taste
*To flatten the chicken, put them in a big Ziplock bag and use a cast iron pan or something similar to flatten them as much as you can. Then, salt them and set aside so they come to room temperature.
Prepare the filling: Heat diced onion and oil in pan. Once onion is softened and almost golden, add the garlic and cook for about a minute, being careful not to burn. Add nuts to toast, stirring pan. Drain dried fruit, dice and add to pan. Add in stalks of greens and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add in leaves, continuing stirring pan, incorporating all ingredients. Turn heat off. Greens will continue to cook. Do not overcook. Allow to to come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Assemble the chicken: Sprinkle cheese on flattened chicken breasts and then top with the prepared greens mixture. Roll up as tightly as you can (don’t stress about it like I did; it will all work out) and tie each with three strings of kitchen twice, one in middle and one at each end (or however you want to tie them to keep these babies closed).
Roll the tied chicken in flour. Pan fry until browned, turning to each side. Finish in hot 375-degree oven for 10 to 20 minutes.
Allow chicken to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.