Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pesto Chicken Roulade

Sometimes it's hard to find something fun and new to do with chicken. Well, this is one super yummy, healthy, and unique answer to that problem. 

Two and a half years ago, my sister in law, Ashley, was pregnant with Kinley, my first niece. Because Ashley couldn't be around the paint fumes, I helped paint the baby room along with both of Kinley's soon-to-be Grammies. As a thank you, Ashley made this delicious pesto chicken roulade for our lunch break from painting. And so the addiction began... Since then, I have made this dish a number of times! It is a great one to make for others because it is so easy to make, but impressive and intricate looking. It makes for an easy but fancy meal! In fact, this is the chicken dish (or his own variation of it :) that Peter made me for our Valentines dinner this year!

Shopping List (for 2 servings): 

  • 2 Chicken breasts or breast cutlets (I prefer the breast cutlets because they start out thin already so it makes the pounding out a little easier... but beware not to get the ones that look like chicken-finger-sized cutlets)
  • Pesto Sauce (I use just about 4 tablespoons, but you can use more or serve extra on the side if you like)
  • 1 big handful of Fresh Spinach ( you can also use frozen... Frozen is usually a better deal because you get so much more of it for your money)
  • Parmesan Cheese (Maybe 3 Tbsps?)
  • Shredded Italian Cheese (Mozzarella, Fontina, etc- or any combination thereof)- just a few big pinches will do.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil and/or butter, for searing in the pan

First, steam some spinach (or thaw your frozen spinach). Then let it cool so that you can handle it to really squeeze out all the liquid.

While the spinach is cooling down, place your chicken breast cutlets between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, pound out the chicken to about 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch thick. You would be surprised at how little it takes to pound out the chicken, so don't use too much force or pound for too long or else you will get super thin areas that will rip and tear when you roll it up later.
**Helpful Tip: I use the smooth side of the meat mallet because I've found that the textured side tears up the chicken too much. 

Pat the chicken dry with some paper towels. Now, spread a good spoonful of pesto onto each chicken, then some of the spinach, then shredded cheese, and finally a good topping of grated parmesan:

Starting at a short end to roll up your chicken, then carefully seal it up using some toothpicks.
**Helpful tip: use the same number of toothpicks in every chicken. Otherwise you will cook them and one toothpick may have been missed until one of your guests bite into it! I usually find that 7 toothpicks do the trick, so I use that as my magic number every time; even if one roll only needs, let's say 5, I will still stick in 2 extras anyway. That way you know exactly how many you need to pull out of each roll before you serve it. I've tried 'remembering' which one had 5, and which one had 7, and which one had 6..... trust me, it doesn't work. Make life easy on yourself and stick the same amount of toothpicks in each one so that it is fool-proof to not serve toothpicks to your unsuspecting dinner guests.

Heat olive oil and/or butter (I use 1 tbsp of each, but using all olive oil would be a healthier option) in your oven safe frying pan. Make sure the pan is nice and hot, then sear your chicken and let it sit for a couple minutes to cook through a little bit, then roll and repeat until all 'sides' and ends are seared and golden brown. 

With the 'seam'-side up (so that the fillings won't run out while cooking), spoon on a little more pesto and parmesan along the seam:

Place in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked all the way through and there is no pink. 
When it is done, let is sit for a few minutes or else the hot melty cheese and pesto will run right out:

When it has rested for a few minutes, slice the chicken into medallions so that you can see the beautiful swirly design and all the pretty green spinach and pesto that is rolled up inside!

I served mine aside large slices of tomato. I drizzled the savory leftover pan sauces and a some balsamic vinegar over the tomato slices and it was to die for. I think I am going to serve it with tomatoes like this every time now!

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