Within my circle of friends, two of us cook. Which gave Jamey, the host of our weekly poker game, an idea. He would volunteer to host a cook-off between Eric and I – a Top Chef Deathmatch as he billed it. As part of the competition, Eric and I would be charged with creating an appetizer and an entrée in ninety minutes, which our friends would then collectively judge and critique. As part of the rules, Eric and I could bring our own proteins and rely on our girlfriends as sous-chefs. We could also help ourselves to any ingredients and cookware we found in Jamey’s apartment. The competition had yet another element. The four judges would be bringing an unknown ingredient with them that night, which would have to be incorporated in at least one of the dishes.
What I thought would be a rather stressful night of cooking-on-command, turned out to be an incredibly fun night with fantastic food from the four of us. As it happened, the quality of the judging was on par with the food, and there were a few instances where we found ourselves passionately defending our meals.
The next time you’re faced with secret ingredients and a meal you may have to defend, I suggest Chicken Roulade with Spinach Ricotta filling. Credit for the recipe, as well as its flawless execution, goes to my girlfriend, Caitlin.
Chicken Roulade with Spinach Ricotta filling
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 40 minutes
YIELD: Serves 2
WHAT TO GRAB:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup spinach (roughly 12 leaves)
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (4 slices of bread)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon warm water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
6 toothpicks, oiled
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Toast four pieces of plain white bread on the lowest setting. Remove the crusts, and process in a food processor. Set the bread crumbs aside.
3. Heat the skillet and 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Once hot, saute the garlic and spinach until the spinach is reduced. Off the heat, mix in the ricotta and lemon zest. Set the mixture aside.
4. Season each chicken breast with salt and pepper. Place the breast between two pieces of parchment paper, and pound the chicken breast until the meat is about 1/4-inch thick.
5. Reheat the skillet with 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, fold each chicken breast around half of the spinach mixture so that the smooth side is showing. The filling should be placed in a thin line down the center of the breast to prevent it from leaking out. Secure the edges with the oiled toothpicks.
6. Roll each breast in the flour, then the egg mixture, and then the bread crumbs, making sure the chicken is well-coated at each step. Once the oil is hot, sear the breast until lightly browned on each side – about three minutes on a each side. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes.
7. Slice in one-inch pieces and serve warm!