Erin’s Eats: Chicken Rollups

Posted: March 18, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

My lovely friend Erin recently moved to Brooklyn. As someone who had a lot to learn about cooking for one, and cooking things I’d want to eat, when I first moved here, I offered to give her some recipes. So I’m adding a new tag, full of recipes I’m testing and trying out for Erin’s eventual recipe file. I’ll need to work quickly, since obviously we don’t want homegirl to starve in the meantime. For now, here’s installment 1.

One of the first things I had to learn when I moved to Brooklyn was how to make things that would freeze well, reheat well, and could be varied. I didn’t want to get bored while working my way through an entire package of chicken breasts, and one of the things I came up with was a recipe for chicken rollups. Essentially they’re a variation on chicken kiev – chicken breasts pounded flat, filled with something delicious, rolled up, and cooked. In the case of chicken kiev, that something delicious is an herby compound butter and some cheese. The rollups are then dipped in melted butter, dredged in herb-and-cheese breadcrumbs, and baked.

This iteration of chicken rollups is a bit simpler, and involves far less butter, which is of course a good thing for all of us health-conscious people. It’s also much quicker, since instead of baking the rolls for 45 minutes, you brown them on all sides in a hot pan, and then stick them in the oven for a mere 5 minutes, followed by a splash chicken broth, and another 10 minutes in the oven.

And in the end, you get something that looks like this, and really, there’s nothing better than that. I promise.
Chicken Rollups
For this variation, I used a filling of roasted red pepper and spinach, sauteed with garlic and onion, and a tablespoon of ricotta. Other iterations can include spinach and blue cheese, swiss cheese, goat cheese and sun dried tomato, caramelized onions and goat cheese, or basically any other combination of vegetables and cheese you can think of.

1. Make the filling.
Dice 1/2 an onion and 2 cloves of garlic, and saute in a teaspoon or so of butter or olive oil until they’re translucent and letting out their juice. Season with salt. Chop a handful of spinach, and add it to the pan. Stir, season, and let the spinach wilt. Chop up a roasted red pepper (either homemade or jarred is fine) and add it to the pan as well. When everything is heated through, taste and check for seasoning. Put on a plate to cool.
2. Prepare the chicken.
Take your package of chicken breasts, and pound each breast out to about 1/4 inch thick. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides, and set aside.

3. Get your sauteed veggies and ricotta cheese together, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
4. Spread a teaspoon of ricotta onto each chicken breast, and a teaspoon of the filling. You will probably have extra vegetables, but they can be used for other things. Roll up the chicken breasts over the filling, and secure with toothpicks.
5. When you have all your rollups set, film the bottom of a skillet that can go in the oven with olive oil. Put the rollups into the skillet, and brown on all sides. When all of the sides are brown, put the skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Pour in a quarter-cup of chicken stock (or wine or water) and put the skillet back in the oven for 10 minutes.
If you want to freeze the left-overs, all you’d need to do is cool them to room temperature after you’ve cooked them, put them in a ziplock bag, and freeze them. To reheat, you could either microwave them (which scares me), or defrost them in the fridge overnight and then reheat in the oven with a little more chicken broth (about 375 or 400) for 15-20 minutes.

I’ll be testing more recipes for Erin as we go along, but for now, what are some of YOUR favorite no-fail recipes? Things with high flavor output that can either be scaled down for 1 or 2, or freeze well in case of leftovers? Let me know in the comments!!

Cafeteria Food

Posted: February 1, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

One of the ‘perks’ of my job is that I can save money by eating whatever meals I want in the dining hall.  Unfortunately, when cooking a  meal for 400 people in a high school cafeteria, quality has a tendency to go out the window.  The other day for lunch, the menu said that they were serving grilled chicken and penne in a creamy roasted red pepper and smoked gouda sauce.  Sounds really good right?…sadly, no.   There was one tiny little chink of chicken on my plate with watery sauce, over cooked pasta, and garnished with cherry tomatoes.  Not cooked cherry tomatoes which might have made sense, but raw, cold cherry tomatoes from the salad bar.  I can’t not think of anything more disappointed than a meal that sounds fantastic and tastes like crap.  I was convinced that I could do better, so this weekend I planned it out and tried to execute.  Needless to say (hopefully) mine was way better than the institutional cafeteria version.

The first thing that I did was roast a red pepper, which required putting a red pepper in the over and rotating it every 5 minutes until it is black on all sides, then taking it out of the oven and covering it with a towel until it cools and collapses a little.  Once you can handle it, peel all the skin off and cut it into bite sized pieces.

While the pepper is roasting, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and sautee with some butter, salt and pepper until it is golden brown.  Set the chicken aside and throw some mushrooms, onions, and asparagus into the sautee pan and cook until they are tender.

Put a pound of pasta (I used angel hair, but use whatever you want) into boiling water, and while that cooks, you can start the sauce.  Its a basic white sauce, so I started with 3Tbsp of butter and 3Tbsp of flour to make my roux, then added 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of chicken stock.  Once it thickens add grated smoked gouda to taste.  I used a combo of smoked gouda and regular gouda because my stupendous grocery store only had one block of smoked gouda.  Add the chicken, peppers and veggies, then salt and pepper to taste.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce.  Toss to coat.

Thankfully, this turned out beautifully.  More importantly, it turned out WAY better than the dining hall version.

Pasta with creamy smoked gouda sauce

Hope you enjoy!

Grilled chicken and penne
pasta in a creamy roasted
red pepper and smoked
gouda saucGrilled chicken and penne
pasta in a creamy roasted
red pepper and smoked
gouda sauceGrilled chicken and penne pasta in a creamy roasted red pepper and smoked gouda sauce

Southern Fried

Posted: January 13, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , | No Comments »

I don’t know about most of you guys, but my menu tends to be dictated by what is on sale that week at the grocery store.  This week there was a really good sale on cut up chicken pieces for frying, so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to try out a new fried chicken recipe.  The recipe I used to use was good, but was very temperamental and REALLY heavy, even for fried chicken.  So the new recipe I wanted to try was actually easier, and ended up tasting even better.

Its pretty simple, but like most fried chicken, crazy delish.  Start out with whatever chicken pieces you want and rinse/dry them thoroughly.  Whisk three eggs in a bowl with enough hot sauce (I use Franks RedHot, but Texas Pete is excellent too) to make the eggs look bright orange.  Season the chicken with a mixture of salt, pepper, and a dash of garlic powder, then dip it into the egg mixture to coat it completely.  Then dredge it in self rising flour.  Put it into a skillet that is filled half way with peanut oil at 350 degrees.  For dark meat cook it for about 7 min on each side, for white meat, about 5 minutes on each side.  It should be golden brown, but if you aren’t sure just check the temp.  As long as its at least 165 degrees, you are good. Once its done, set it on paper towels to cool and get rid of some of the excess oil.  Once it is cool, nom away :)

Fried Chicken

I made an entire chicken worth so that I have left overs throughout the week…not sure how long its going to last though :)

Happy Frying!


Gourmet Unbound: December

Posted: November 30, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Gourmet Unbound, Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Gourmet Magazine’s closing has affected many people in many different ways. An unexpected impact appears to have been that it has brought some of the food blogging community closer together. Or at least, it’s spawned a great idea, and a way to review old copies of Gourmet and pull out ideas.

Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomato
One of my favorite things about Gourmet was that among all the recipes that were fancy, there were the ones you could cook from what was in your cabinet. For example: Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes. My parents did not know, on Saturday, that I would be cooking dinner. But when I asked, they said ok. They didn’t have time to go shopping, so the dish got hacked a little. But in the end, what’s the difference between a kidney bean and a cannelini bean? What’s the difference, really, between a can of crushed tomatoes, and stewed tomatoes with juice? In fact, what ARE stewed tomatoes?

Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes Chez Johnsons
via Gourmet December 2004

6 pieces of bacon
4-6 pieces bone-in, skin on dark meat chicken
1 huge shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, 1 can pinto beans

Preheat the oven to 350
Cut the bacon into roughly 1/2-inch pieces, and brown in a skillet, reserving the fat. Scoop out the bacon pieces, and brown the chicken (probably in 2 batches), which you’ve seasoned on each side with salt and pepper, about 4 minutes per side.
Remove the chicken to your casserole dish, and scoop out 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Pour out the rest, and wipe out the pan.
Put the bacon fat back in the pan, and saute the shallot. When it is getting soft, add the garlic. Stir and saute until the garlic starts to smell amazing. Then, add the tomatoes, and rinse and drain the beans. (If you’re using cannelini beans, that would be 2 cans of them). When the tomato liquid comes up to a simmer, stir in the bacon pieces, and the drained cannelini beans. Stir to heat the beans through, and combine with the chicken in the casserole dish.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
Parent-ApprovedThis recipe is warm and comforting. My parents loved it, which is always nice. A major benefit is being able to check the comments on Epicurious – I knew that the dish could be kind of bland, and added some garlic as many of the commenters suggested. I also threw in a splash of white wine, even though deglazing in a nonstick pan is kind of…. silly.
And best of all, my parents had basically everything, or a reasonable facsimile of everything, in their house already. If you have any kind of pantry, you probably do too.

A recipe for Paige

Posted: October 16, 2009 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

My sister has been on me for a while now to post about my buffalo chicken dip, so I figured it was about time to get it done…especially since she is pregnant and more than willing to kick my ass :) .

I got the idea for this from one of our favorite restaurants in South Carolina, but it has slowly been evolving for the past couple of years.  I’ve heard a lot of recipes for buffalo chicken dip that use canned chicken, cream cheese and other ingredients that make me cringe a bit (I have a thing against most forms of canned meat), but my recipe is a bit more complex…not difficult, just less simple.


Oven-safe serving dish

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 white onion (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (diced)

5 strips thick cut bacon

1 bottle ranch dressing

hot sauce of some sort

melted butter

1 can beer (I use Bud Light)

Jack Cheese (shredded)

First things first, cut the bacon into bite sized pieces and brown it in a fry pan.  I like to get mine to the point where it is just starting to get crispy, but still has some give to it.  I have found that gives the best flavor and takes away some of the grainy texture that it gets when its overly browned.  Take the bacon out and let it drain, but leave some of the grease in the pan.  Throw in the onions and saute them until they are soft.  When the onions have become clearly but aren’t fully soft yet, throw in the diced garlic and finish cooking them together.  Remove the onions and garlic and put them in the serving dish, again leaving some of the grease and liquid in the pan.  Cut up the chicken into small, fairly thin pieces.  Cutting chicken is always a pain in the butt, however if you freeze it for about 30 min before you are ready to cut it, it will help you to cut it a lot more easily.  Throw the chicken into the pan and cook it until it is no longer pink on the out side.

While your chicken is cooking, mix together the hot sauce and melted butter.  I wish I could give you more specific measurements, but its really about how you want it to taste and how hot you want it.  I usually end up melting about 4Tbsp butter, and then adding hot sauce until it tastes like I want it to.  Once the chicken is no longer pink, add the butter and hot sauce mixture and coat the chicken with it.  Pour in half of the can of beer and bring it to a boil for a minute.  Reduce the heat to simmer and let it reduce by about a half.  Taste the sauce after it has reduced to make sure it has the right amount of kick for you, I usually end up adding a little more hot sauce.

Once everything is cooked, put it all in the dish and add about 3/4 of the bottle of ranch dressing.  Mix it all together and top it with the cheese.  Bake at 375 until the cheese is brown and bubbly, or if you are serving it right away, just broil it on low for a few minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips, and enjoy!  If you want to be healthier, it is excellent on celery as well, however I am also a big fan of using cucumber slices instead.  Its still a good crunch and I prefer it to celery.

This is one of my favorite things to bring when my friends and I do dinner, or to family stuff, and it will definitely be a part of the super bowl repertoire this year.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.