Don’t Deflate – Inflate the Taste – Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast

Perfectly stuffed and inflated chicken breast

Perfectly stuffed and inflated chicken breast

People have been talking a lot about deflated things lately. The deflated Patriots balls proved for some good fodder on Twitter with #TomBradyHasSaggyBalls and #DeflateGate ruling online.

And things have been inflated too. This past week’s ‘epic’ ‘historic’  ‘monster’ snow storm is a great example of an inflated forecast – for NYC anyway.

But my most amazing recent encounter with inflation came from ConEd. Today I received my e-bill from the Electric Company – not the ’70’s singing kind. Now, I do look at these emails, but what happened today made me think of all the people who never do. See, today’s invoice was for $288.56 for electric charges since December 22 and not 12/22/12, 12/22/14. To put this in perspective, last month’s bill was $58.27 AND I’ve been away much of this billing period. I called – pressed a lot of buttons – and finally got an agent – Tony. Tony explained that because of the ‘storm’ the meters weren’t read and ConEd just estimates the wattage used….uhmmmm, based on what? Me running a neon sign company out of my apartment? After I went and read my own meter (now I know where that is) – the massive inflation error was corrected and my bill deflated down to $52.21.

Lesson here? Sometimes things are erroneously deflated and sometimes things are erroneously inflated.

One thing that you should not deflate but should inflate the taste of is chicken breast. Just pump it up with Ricotta Cheese and Spinach.

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts (serves 2 – more if your breasts are inflated….)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. You’re going to dirty a bowl, a plate, a fry pan and a baking dish – so clean as you go
  2. Don’t get over zealous with the flour – you just need enough to lightly coat the breasts – any more and flour will end up all over your counter(s) and floor
  3. Chicken goes on sale – but, please, I beg you, do not buy a store brand unless that store is Fairway, Trader Joe’s or WholeFoods. I recently had an unfortunate bad chicken incident when I stopped and shopped somewhere I won’t name.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium Sized Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

    On Sale!

    On Sale! – But a good brand, so AOK

  • 1 10oz Package of Chopped Frozen Spinach
  • 1/2 Cup of Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese – I like the Polly-O brand
  • 2 Slices of Prosciutto – thinly sliced – don’t go crazy, just buy the Boars Head
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil – you know the drill, really good extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt / Pepper – or Dad Salt – message me for where to find it

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1. Defrost the spinach – just take it from the package, put it in a microwave safe dish/bowl and zap it for 6-7 minutes

spinach, chopped, frozen, chicken, dinner

BirdsEye spinach – always a good deal

2. Drain the spinach – I wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and wring it out. Just be careful as the spinach is hot (duh) and will burn your hands

3. Once the spinach is wholly cooled – take about 1/2 of it and mix it with the 1/2 cup of Ricotta Cheese – set aside. You can use all the spinach with more ricotta (like I did) and then save the rest of the mixture for a great Spinach Maria side.

spinach, ricotta, stuffed chicken recipe

I made all the spinach and more ricotta –   enough stuffing for 6 breasts Or to make a spinach maria side

4. Butterfly the chicken breasts – this is a little tricky if you’ve never done it. Best advice is to place one hand on top of the breast, slice slowly into the flesh and continue to move your knife down the center and open the breast until it’s a perfect butterfly shape

Put one hand on top of the chicken to hold it steady while slicing

Put one hand on top of the chicken to hold it steady while slicing – and cut that fat off the end

5. Place the breasts one at a time on a large piece of plastic wrap on top of a cutting board

butterfly chicken breast

Perfectly butterflied breast – needs pounding!

6. Place a second piece of plastic wrap on top of the butterflied breast

7. Pound the chicken breast to about 1/4 inch thick – You’re not trying to kill the chicken, it’s already dead – Best method is to come down on the chicken with your mallet and then move the mallet to the outside of the breast. Be careful not to rip the breast open – though really no worries if this happens

8. Salt and Pepper or DadSalt the inside of the pounded breasts

DadSalt is a mix of flavinators and testifiers - a venture to raise funds for EBResearch.org. Contact me for details.

DadSalt is a mix of flavinators and testifiers – a venture to raise funds for EBResearch.org. Contact me for details.

9. On one side of the butterflied and pounded breast, place a heaping tablespoon plus a little more of the ricotta-spinach mixture and use your fingers to press it into an even layer. Leave a little space on the edges – don’t overstuff.

stuffed chicken, spinach ricotta dinner

That’s about the right amount of stuffing – maybe a little too much…

10. Fold the un-spinach/ricotta half of the breast over the spinach-ricotta half and gently press the edges together

stuffed chicken breast, dinner

See, there’s a hole in mine – not to worry. It’ll be hidden by the prosciutto

11. Dredge the stuffed, sealed breasts in flour just to coat

12. Take one slice of the prosciutto and lay it on top of the dredged, stuffed chicken breast

stuffed chicken breast recipe

Dredged and covered – note the hole is now just our secret

13. Heat about 2 TBSP of Olive Oil and 1 TSP of butter in a large pan over medium/high heat

14. Prepare a 9×9 or 8×8 or whatever sized baking dish will fit the breasts with cooking spray – set aside

15. Once the oil, butter is melted and sizzling hot, place the chicken breasts prosciutto side down on the hot pan

stuffed chicken breast dinner

Yes, the prosciutto will adhere all on its own to the chicken. Trust me.

16. Brown the chicken until the prosciutto is browned and crisped and adhered to the chicken – about 4 minutes

17. Flip the chicken and brown the alternate side – about another 4 minutes

stuffed chicken breast, prosciutto, dinner

This is what the prosciutto should look like – perfectly browned and adhered to the chicken.

18. Remove the breasts from the pan and place in the prepared baking dish.

19. Place the baking dish into the oven for :20 minutes – until cooked through and chicken meat is completely white

20. Remove and serve

stuffed chicken breast recipe

Perfect. Just Perfect.

Chicken breast stuffed with spinach

And the surprise inside!

Some things are meant to be deflated – huge egos, beach balls at the end of the day, giant Santas after christmas is over. And, some are meant to be inflated – not my ConEd bill, mind you – but rather a chicken dinner sumptuously inflated with spinach and ricotta cheese.

Advertisements

Soup-Er Bowl: White Bean, Sausage and Cauliflower Soup

superbowl football soup cauliflower

Soup-Er Superbowl Soup

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner. If I read the Roman Numerals correctly, it’s Super Bowl 48..Not 49-er. And while, we, as New Yorkers, lament that our (or Jersey’s depending upon how you look at it) hometown team won’t be playing, we rejoice in the fact that at least one Manning will be there….Hopefully leading the Broncos to victory.

And, let’s be honest, we’re just happy it’s not the Patriots.

superbowl soup dinner recipe budweiser horses

Boozy Budweiser Clydesdales – not Colts

I know it’s almost Super Bowl Sunday because I saw the Budweiser Clydesdale horses outside of my apartment the other day. That’s right, a team of boozy Broncos led by some Cowboy towing a ton of beer. Right here on 67th St. Only in New York, Kids.

And, then there are all of the cooking tips on TV. Seem that no one eats like a Saint on SBS. Most chow down more like Cardinals – twice their weight in one day – and view Super Bowl Sunday as an excellent opportunity to consume 8million tons of guacamole – always seemed odd to me. Maybe those Texans started this tradition of guac. Americans pride themselves on creating 7-layer dips in the shapes of football stadiums, wrapping billions of cocktail weenies in crescent dough and consuming copious amounts of …beer.

I, on the other hand, prefer to provide my guests with Giant Soup-er Super Bowl soups. Last year, I made the Soup-Er simple Taco Soup…..this year, I’ll be mesmerizing Manning fans with a not as simple, but equally delicious, White Bean, Cauliflower, Chicken Sausage Soup. A soup that may even entice my Seahawk friends Jet-ing in from the west.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. If you don’t have a hand held blender – get one. They don’t take up a lot of space, aren’t that expensive, come in pretty colors (mine is pink) are dishwasher safe and make an easy job of pureeing your soup.
  2. Timing is everything – since you’re having people over, clean as you go – you don’t have counter space for all of those dirty pots & pans anyway and your kitchen probably doubles as your bar, coat rack, convening space for friends and Titans of Industry.
  3. If you don’t have a Viking range, no worries, yours will be just fine.

Soup-Er Super Bowl Soup (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • rachael ray sausage oscars smoke house super bowl soup

    Super Sausage from Somewhere Upstate – Well East of Buffalo, home of the Bills

    4 Chicken-Cheddar-Spinach Sausage links Sliced –  mine were from Oscar’s Smoke House upstate –  because Rachael Ray says so…PS, they ship to NYC

  • 2 Cans White Northern or Cannolini beans – the big white ones not the Redskin-ed ones – rinsed
  • 2 Cups Cut Cauliflower – don’t be an over Packer – just 2 loose cups will do
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion Diced
  • ½ Small Shallot diced
  • 2 Cups of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh Thyme – ok, mine are frozen – not in the refrig-e-Raider, but in the freezer
  • 4 Cups of Good Chicken Stock – like you’d ever use ‘bad’ chicken stock?
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • EVOO
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Spread the cauliflower on a lined baking sheet (Reynolds Wrap pan-lining paper is my fave), sprinkle with EVOO and salt and gently mix

vegetable roasting cauliflower

Cauliflower Ready to Roast

3. Put Cauliflower in to oven and roast for :30mins

cauliflower roasted vegetarian

Brown(s) Food Is Good Food

4. Meanwhile…..In a large stock pot – Le Creuset, s’il vous plait – over medium heat, sauté the diced onion and shallot in about 2 tbsp of EVOO until well softened and sorta translucent – about :10 mins

soup onion shallot super bowl sunday dinner

The onion makes it onion-y the shallot makes it sweet…and it’s pretty

5. Toss in a Bay Leaf for flavoring….

soup recipe super bowl

Bay Leaf for seasoning

6. Add 4 Cups of Chicken Stock and 1 Cup of water

7. Add in the roasted cauliflower and the Thyme leaves

cauliflower soup dinner recipe

Stirring in roasted cauliflower goodness

8. BTB / RTS – bring to boil, return to simmer….but, you knew what I meant

9. Simmer for :25 minutes until the cauliflower is well softened. Keep an Eagle’s eye on your simmer – it’s an art, simmering.

While that’s simmering….

9. In a frying pan over medium/high heat, add 1 tbsp of EVOO and sauté the sausage slices until browned.

dinner sausage soup with white beans

Chicken Sausage with Cheddar and Spinach – Oscar’s Smoke House NY

10. Remove the sausage and set aside

oscars smoke house chicken sausage

Browned and Beautiful

——————————WAIT—————————————

ABOUT :10mins – read a book, call your mom, watch an episode of ‘That’s So Raven(s)’, whatever….

11. In the sausage-y pan, add the spinach and wilt – :04 mins ish

fresh spinach soup cauliflower recipe

Wonderfully Wilted Spinach

12. Remove the sautéed spinach and set aside

13. Back to the large stock pot….After :25 minutes Turn off heat on Stock Pot…….Remove the bay leaf

14. Stir in 1 15oz can of White Beans and simmer another :05 minutes

soup dinner recipe

Simmering Simmering Simmering

15. Add pepper to taste – about 4-5 turns of a mill

16. Puree mixture with pretty pink hand held blender until smooth – you may have to chase the chunks of cauliflower…Like a Lion, Panther or a Bengal Tiger might chase down its prey.

soup puree cauliflower

Pretty Pink Pureeing – chasing chunks of Cauliflower

dinner soup recipe cauliflower spinach sausag

Smooth, Sleek and Silky…Like a Jaguar

17. Stir in 1 Cup of Cannolini / Northern White beans and the cooked sausage and the spinach. I like a soup that eats like a meal…so, I add no more stock… you do what you want, you know what I’m doing…If your guests are hungry as Bears, Ram in another can of beans to make it more stew-ish. You can also stir in some cream, don’t need to, but can – whatever you want. You’re the Chief Chef here.

soup super bowl recipe find the teams

Do you have to add spinach? No, but it’s pretty and delish

Gindo's Spice of Life fresh and spicy pepper sauce

That’s Hot!

18. Have some spice-loving Buccaneers coming over? You can, at this point, stir in a few dashes of Gindo’s Fresh and Spicy Spice of Life…for an extra point or an onside kick!

19. Heat Through

20. Serve warm (just in a simple soup bowl, no need for the formality of fine china on gilded Chargers).

Add some yummy, crusty bread  – I paid just $1.19 for a baguette at Fairway today! At that price, I felt like a Steeler of breads!

dinner soup recipe super bowl

The Spinach Swims in the Soup like a Graceful Pod of Dolphins

So….the Giants didn’t make it to the big game. It’s fine. Truth be told, I’m more in to the commercials anyway…And the cooking. And, with this chicken sausage, white bean and cauliflower soup – it’s sure to be a Soup-er Super Bowl Sunday!

Go Peyton!

PS – Maybe you’d rather watch reruns of Falcon(s) Crest instead of the Big Game. Listen, if you need to be entertained, find the 32 NFL teams mentioned in this post.

Bunnies Don’t Lay Eggs: Easter Egg Breakfast Cups

baked egg cups prosciutto

Oozy Egg Cups

It’s Easter weekend…And, there’s a new pope. So, it’s like a totally important Easter weekend.

raising rabbits easter brunch bunnies

Thumper – The Mother To Be

One thing about Easter that always confused me is the mystical Easter Bunny who brought eggs to us on Easter morning. I mean, rabbits don’t lay eggs. I’m certain of this because growing up we had bunnies…lots of bunnies. It started with Snuggles and then we added Thumper. The guy that sold us the bunnies assured us that both Snuggles and Thumper were males…and, we naively believed him.

But soon we had many mini Snuggles and Thumpers living in the rabbit hutch in our back yard. That’s right, Snuggles may have been male but Thumper was definitely female and the proud bunny mama to many little bunny pups.

We were young when we the bunny breeding began and watching the miracle of life in our own back yard was pretty cool. At first, we didn’t know what was going on…Thumper was lethargic and seemed to be gaining weight. ‘He’ spent a lot of time in the covered part of the hutch and didn’t want to be held. Meanwhile, Snuggles hopped around all boasty and proud…The, one day when we went out to feed the rabbits we noticed four tiny bald bunnies peeking out from under Thumper’s fur. What? The light went on: Thumper was a lady rabbit and now the mother of four.

Like I said, we were young. We had heard about rabbits reproducing like, well, rabbits. But didn’t really know exactly how that all happened. One thing was certain, however, these bunnies were definitely not hatched from eggs.

So, I don’t really get the Easter Bunny who brings Easter Eggs. I’m sure I could Google the origin of this magical egg-bearing rabbit – but, I’m not going to ruin the mystery.

In addition to the Easter Bunny and silly flowered bonnets, Brunch is synonymous with a traditional Easter celebration.

If your brunch guests are multiplying like rabbits you’ll want to serve an easy yet impressive and traditional meal.  Serving rabbit at Easter Brunch just seems wrong. But eggs, now that’s a different story.

Individual Easter Egg Cups (serves 6 if this is all you’re serving, but most likely there will be an Erik Estrada aka Egg Strada, a fruit salad, a frittata and maybe even a ham)

Tips for tiny apartments of any size:

  1. Buy extra slices of prosciutto; you will inevitably tear one or two during the prep and you may even want to snack on a slice or two
  2. Use your cup cake tin…not your Texas tin – if you’re lucky enough to have room in your tiny kitchen for both
  3. Temperate (bring to room temperature) your ingredients…everything works better this way

Ingredients (why am I moved to start saying ‘ingredientses’ like Teresa Giudice – pronounced this season as Ju-DEE-chAY)

  • 12 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 10oz package Birdseye frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 Cloves Garlic minced
  • 1/2 Shallot diced
  • 3 TBSP of heavy cream at room temperature
  • 14 slices of prosciutto – sliced thin
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

1. In a microwave safe bowl, defrost the spinach – remove from packaging, place in bowl and microwave for 6-7 minutes, stirring about halfway through

birdseye frozen chopped spinach

Thawed and Smokin’

2. Squeeze the excess water from the defrosted spinach. Wrap the spinach in a kitchen towel and squeeze the water out. Don’t worry about staining the towel. Spinach is organic and the green residue on the dish towel will wash out. Best to rinse the towel immediately following the squeezification and then throw it in the wash.

birdseye chopped frozen spinach

Post squeezification

3. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat heat two tablespoons of Olive Oil

4. Throw in the minced garlic and diced shallot and saute until fragrant – about 2 mins

fresh garlic saute

Saute Til Fragrant

5. Add the spinach and stir to combine

6. Heat through – about :02 mins

7. Turn the heat down and pour in the heavy cream. Stir to combine

cream spinach birdseye frozen chopped egg cup bake

Creamy Goodness

8. Take one piece of prosciutto and line each cup of a 12-cup cupcake tin. Don’t worry if the pieces tear a little…just make sure the sides and bottom of each cup are covered with the salty meat

prosciutto egg cups brunch recipe

Line with prosciutto

9. Layer on a tablespoon of the cream spinach to the prosciutto

Cream spinach egg cups easter brunch

Layer in the Creamy Spinach

10. Crack one egg on top of each prosciutto – spinach cup

easter egg cups for brunch prosciutto food

I crack the eggs into ramekins and then pour into each cup cake well

11. Bake in the oven for :15 mins – until the eggs are set, but yolks are still runny. You may want to turn the pan halfway through the cooking process so that all eggs are uniformly baked. But, then again, you may have runny egg eaters and more done egg eaters. Your call.

12. Using a large spoon, gently lift each Easter Egg Cup out of the tin and transfer to a serving plate.

Easter Egg cup recipe brunch

Easter Egg Cup Service

13. Serve. If perfectly prepared, the yolks will be runny and delicious and the prosciutto will be somewhat crispy and hold its cup shape.

Easter egg bake spinach prosciutto recipe

Perfectly runny baked egg

Bunnies don’t lay eggs. And, the Egg-Toting Easter Bunny is still a mystery to me. All I know is that if a bunny breeder promises you the two rabbits he’s selling are male – it’s probably a lie. And that these Easter Egg Breakfast Cups are an easy way to impress your Easter Brunch guests.

Fact: Cooking With Kids Is A Ball

monkey bread cooking with kids

Most Fattening Thing Ever

As the little people (not short, but younger) in your life age, they become much more creative, interesting and culinarily challenging.

I’ve just returned from a weekend of kids-cooking in Cincinnati with my niece and nephew (oldest brother’s kids). I used to get away with simple recipes like pancakes and cupcakes and fried chicken… But, now the kids are older and demand more from our kitchen creations.

When my middle brother visits my niece and nephew, he entertains the kids with movie making, science experimentation, Harry Potter regaling and intellectual conversations. He’s a Potter Scholar, Science Junkie and PHD in Philosophy – please address him as ‘Dr. James’.

My visits, though, involve intricate meal planning, grocery list organization, food procurement, inspired baking and cooking.

It starts weeks in advance of my arrival. The kids are old now – 14 and 13. So, I email them proposed menus and we go back and forth via text and email in the days leading up to my visit to solidify a weekend’s worth of kitchen entertainment.

Several criteria for each creation must be met.

Firstly, the culinary endeavors must include an element of artistry.

The Hunger Games Katniss drawing

Katniss by Meggie

anniesdishlist icon

Colored in Post

My niece is an amazing artist – like really good. She gets it from my brother – actually, both brothers draw. I, on the other hand, can barely scratch out a stick figure.

In addition to my niece’s inspired cartoon characters – the AnniesDishList icon – she does incredible portraits.

Secondly…we must satisfy their yen for all things scientific.

nasa john glenn jim lovell astronauts

Real Astronauts

My nephew has been fascinated with science and space since birth. At 14 he has met John Glenn, been to Cape Canaveral, experienced Zero G and has already targeted three universities. Cal-Tech has a partnership with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (he’s visited) and preps students to join this elite group of scientists. Stanford has the leading research lab for his rare skin condition. And… MIT…because, well, it’s MIT.

dramatic dog cooking with kids

Broken Paw Act

Lastly, we like to layer in a hint of the dramatic. My people are a dramatic people. It’s genetic and inescapable. In my brother’s family, even the dog is dramatic. Unlike most dogs, their dog, Fred, hates going outside. The tiny hypo-allergenic pooch starts to shake with terror the moment he catches a glimpse of his harness and leash. Here’s a pic of the dog trying to avoid a trip out into the snow and cold by faking, yes faking, a paw injury. Apparently, the dog does this every time he’s confronted with the terror of venturing outdoors. Oy!

So the weekend kitchen challenges had to incorporate art, science and drama.

For snacks, we selected a spherical theme. (Everything below is like OTT fattening…don’t judge. They’re very thin, active kids).

Monkey Bread: artistic abilities tapped as we strategically placed dough balls in a pie plate.

monkey bread cooking with kids

Monkey Bread: Most Fattening Thing Ever

I’m not sure why it’s called monkey bread…It should maybe be called super fattening, sugary, buttery bread balls of gooey goodness. We carefully melted an entire stick of butter and then stirred in brown and white sugars and cinnamon. Once the sugars disolve, the resulting gooeyness is creatively poured over every inch of the dough balls before the entire thing is baked in the oven.

Next….Not too dramatic or scientific…but, creative and relatively goodish for the kids and satisfying our spherical theme…We made spinach party poppers. One might argue that the spinach element balanced out our not so healthy Super Bowl weekend indulgences of guac and chips, monkey bread, pancake breakfast etc. One might argue that for sure.

spinach balls appetizers

Parmesan Spinach Balls

Spinach Party Poppers. may be the best way to get kids to eat spinach. And, represented the vegetable portion of our weekend food fest.

Satisfying the scientific challenge was probably the toughest part. In advance of my arrival, my nephew had proposed a series of molecular gastronomy recipes (damn Internet). All of the recipes included ingredients you just can’t get at the local Kroger like Sodium Alginate, Agar-Agar and Calcium Lactate. Some of the recipes included tools not found in most kitchens like an ISI Whip or a Flux Capacitor…at least it may as well have called for one.

We tried to find what we needed. We even called every Brookstone in a 25 mile radius looking for the Molecular Gastronomy kit…And, some super gourmet organic-y food specialty store in Kentucky in hopes of finding any one of the necessary ingredients or tools. But, no go.

So…as we had no ISI Whip we improvised and used a medical syringe to create mozzarella balloons. In the end, the cheesy balloons were as simple as heating up the mozzarella in simmering water. Then wrapping the malleable cheese around the tip of a syringe and inflating the cheese with air. My nephew initially wanted to use my brother’s bike pump – but, if you’ve seen ‘This is 40’, you know no self-respecting 40-something biking enthusiast father would allow that.

molecular gastronomy

Mozzarella Balloon – syringe technique

These were pretty cool. In the Molecular Gastronomy recipe, one can fill the balloons with herbs, spices or other tantalizing aromas by infusing them through the ISI Whip….We were just happy to inflate the cheese and then proudly display the inflated cheese creation.

Meggie ItalyShane ItalyI like that the little people are like real people now. I’m a little biased, and they really are challenging, interesting, interested, funny, smart, creative great kids. In total over the course of three days, we made over 10 culinary creations. And, even though every dish might not have met the artistic, scientific, dramatic challenge, cooking with these two was really a ball.

Roll ‘Em Up: Stuffed Chicken Breast

spinach stuffed chicken breast

Rocked and Rolled

There’s a great scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Chevy Chase (Clark) and his fictional Wally-World-headed family get lost and end up driving through ‘The Hood.’ With the windows

chevy Chase vacation movie

Roll ‘Em Up!

wide open, and over the din of hooker cat calls and maybe even some jive from stereo-typical drug dealers and street pimps, he tells his family that being lost in such a neighborhood will make the Griswold’s appreciate what they have. Suddenly, through the cat calls from hookers on the street…there’s  a gun shot. Clark immediately urges his family to ‘roll ’em up’.

It’s important to know when to quit. When to call it a day. When the fat lady is singing. When the party’s over. When to ‘roll ’em up.’

I think we can all (sadly) agree that after about 2 minutes into the second quarter of last night’s BCS National Championship Game…It was time for Notre Dame to ‘roll ’em up’. I mean it was 21-zip. Even my cousin – the die-hardest of diehard Irish fans texted asking if there was a ‘mercy rule…or something.’ Brutal.

And so the 2012 season comes to a close. The Fighting Irish can head back to South Bend, a little battered, a lot bruised and, yes, without the title of National Champions. Time for them to roll ’em up and regroup for 2013.

As they rolled up their season, I rolled up some chicken.

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls (Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts – I bought the Perdue individually wrapped ones, but I think they’re small and might choose just the regular Perdue breasts next time
  • 1 10oz Package Birdseye Frozen Chopped Spinach
  • 1/4 Cup Progresso Panko Style Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Cottage Cheese – you can use Ricotta Cheese, but, seriously, the cottage cheese was AOK here
  • 1 TBSP Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

1. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken breasts out to about 1/4 inch thick. The best way I’ve found to do this is to sandwich the breasts between either two pieces of Saran Wrap or two pieces of parchment paper on a cutting board. Pound from the center and sort of push out at the end of each pound.

perdue chicken breasts

Don’t pound it too thin!

2. In a microwavable bowl, defrost the frozen spinach – remove from package and zap on high for 3 minutes….stir and zap another 2-3 mins

birdseye frozen chopped spinach

Thawed and Smokin’

3. Squeeze the spinach to remove the excess water. I do use a kitchen towel for this and as long as you rinse the towel in cold water immediately after the squeeze process, the green ‘stain’ will come out easily in the wash

4. In a small fry pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Can you use oil instead of butter? No, it won’t brown the bread crumbs as nicely

5. Add the bread crumbs to the buttery goodness and toast them up. This doesn’t take long…just let them sit in the butter and stir after a few minutes. You want the bread crumbs sorta crispy…

progresso panko style bread crumbs

Toasting ‘Em Up

6. Once toasted, add the bread crumbs to the spinach

7. Stir in the cottage cheese and parmesan cheese. Add about an 1/8 tsp of salt and pepper.

Perdue stuffed rolled chicken breasts

Mix ‘Em Up

8. Place a heaping spoonful of the mixture into the bottom third of each chicken breast and carefully roll the breasts around the stuffing

9. Secure the rolls with a toothpick or two

perdue chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and cheese

Package ‘Em Up

10. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a medium fry pan

11. Brown the stuffed rolled chicken breasts on all sides – about 2 mins per side

perdue stuffed chicken rolls dinner

Brown ‘Em Up

12. Transfer the browned, stuffed, rolled chicken breasts to a baking dish and put into the oven

13. Bake until cooked completely – about :10 mins

perdue individually wrapped chicken breasts

Bake ‘Em Up

14. Remove the toothpicks, slice and serve.

For the Fighting Irish 2012 was a pretty good season –  and in the spirit of Clark Griswold, I will appreciate what we had – a 12-0 regular season for the first time in forever. Even evil Brent Musberger admitted that Coach Kelly had returned the team to a position of leadership. Last night was tough times. And, there is no mercy rule in college football. In spite of being rolled over, Notre Dame didn’t roll ’em up until the very end. They even scored 14 points in the second half – a little pride saved.

It’s on to 2013 for the Irish. Until then, try rolling up some chicken.