Danielle and I were grocery shopping the other day at about 3:00 in the afternoon. We were having a very nice time, the kids were behaving, and we weren’t broke yet. And then it started to happen… it crept in with small innocent questions like, “what would you like for dinner?” To which I’m sure I responded with something like, “I don’t know. I’ll think about it. Is there anything you wanted?” Seems innocent enough, right? But then, a few minutes later, she asks again, “what are we making for dinner?” I’m beginning to see what’s going on here…
I love my wife very much. I do. But when she gets hungry, I get very scared. For most people, when they say, “I’m hungry,” it is usually just an innocent declaration of their desire to put some food in their belly. For her, it is the start of about a three minute countdown until her all-too-real impersonation of Lou Ferrigno turning into the Incredible Hulk. You must feed the beast or she might just eat you!
So, my mind is reeling with visions of available ingredients in our fridge being combined with each other, like the wheels of a slot machine getting spun again and again, frantically trying to hit the jackpot, and quickly running out of money. To add to the pressure, this was August 30th… it would be the last dinner of our Whole30 food challenge and we had to finish strong.
My ears were ringing. All other noises became muffled. My heart raced. I had to think of something! I knew I had some recently thawed boneless/skinless chicken breasts sitting in the fridge, waiting to fulfill their yet undetermined destiny. I kept thinking of stuffed chicken breasts with some sort of cheesy stuffing as if it was day 31… but alas, cheese could not yet be a (glorious) part of it. We still had homemade bacon leftover and we hadn’t used up all of our marinated portobellos. They were delicious on their own but I needed to find a way to create a cohesive meal with them. So, after thinking of and discarding many other ingredient combinations, I finally settled on the following recipe. I felt relieved that I had a clear direction on which to focus my efforts, but I was filled with trepidation. I had pulled this idea completely out of thin air and was entirely unsure how it would turn out.
I called it “The Farmer Roll” as it resembled a sort of Whole30 maki. The chicken looked like rice, the bacon was the nouri, and asparagus, red pepper, and apple made up the colorful center. I had pounded the chicken thin, seasoned it with salt and pepper and the rolled it with the asparagus, red pepper, apple, and chiffonade of basil. I then wrapped the chicken rolls with homemade bacon that I had par-cooked. They were then pan-seared in clarified butter and rendered bacon fat and put in a slow oven to finish. I plated it sliced, like a sushi roll, on top of slices of grilled and marinated portobello mushroom. We keep these mushrooms marinating in our fridge as a “pantry essential” to add to dishes such as this one. You can find our recipe here. I finished the dish with a rosemary and balsamic pan sauce that really picked up the rosemary and balsamic vinegar that was in the mushroom marinade. It tied everything together nicely.
It turned out well. Really well. Really, REALLY well. I was baffled by its deliciousness but also proud and quite relieved. The Hulk – ahem – I mean Danielle not only went back for seconds, she said that she, “had no words,” and that it was, “a homerun.” It looked like we would all survive to cook and eat another day…
- 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
- 8-16 asparagus spears (depending on thickness)
- ⅓ of a red bell pepper, julienned
- ⅓ of an apple (something sweet, like Gala), julienned
- 2-4 basil leaves, chiffonaded
- 8 strips of bacon, par cooked if thick
- 2 portobello mushrooms, marinated and grilled (find the recipe here)
- 2-3T clarified butter
- 1t fresh rosemary, chopped
- 4T balsamic vinegar
- flat-leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)
- kosher salt
- freshly-cracked black pepper
- Start by blanching the asparagus and red bell pepper. It’s a relatively small amount so you blanche them together in a skillet of small saucepan. Remove to an ice bath to halt cooking and brighten the colors. Dry and set aside.
- If your bacon is thick, you will want to par cook it now. Your goal is to have a crispy bacon crust on the chicken after it has been pan-seared. In some cases the pan-searing is sufficient, in others par cooking the bacon is necessary
- Pound the chicken breasts thinly in between two sheets of plastic wrap. Be firm but gentle as you don’t want the breast to start tearing apart.
- Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper
- Arrange the asparagus, bell pepper, apple, and basil on the chicken breast and carefully roll it. Season the rolled breast with pepper (bacon will provide the salt later).
- Arrange 4 strips of bacon down on your workspace. Space them out so they will be evenly spaced along the length of the chicken roll (it is preferable that they be spaced out a bit so that the exterior of the chicken can get a bit of a sear on it too).
- Carefully place chicken roll on and perpendicular to the bacon. Wrap each strip around the roll and secure with a toothpick. Repeat for each roll.
- Heat a skillet (cast iron or stainless steel is best… even better if it is the one you par cooked the bacon in) to medium high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of clarified butter to the pan. Carefully add the chicken rolls.
- Preheat your oven to 350F
- Let the rolls cook for several minutes on each of their four sides. Don’t move them around a lot. The best seared crusts happen when you don’t peek and move them around a lot. Only rotate to sear each side.
- Once properly seared (should have a golden crust on the chicken and the bacon should be almost crisp) transfer the entire pan to the oven and cook until the internal temperature reaches 150-155.
- Remove chicken from oven and let rest for a few minutes.
- While the roll rests, deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar. Then mount with butter and some rosemary for an earthy flavor. Keep the heat low, otherwise the balsamic can turn into a syrup with a stringy, caramel consistency.
- Slice roll approximately three quarters of an inch thick to look like small pieces of sushi
- We plated this over grilled marinated portobella mushrooms that you can find the recipe for on our site or you can add a different vegetable on the side.
- Spoon sauce over roll and garnish with flat leaf parsley
Do you have a family member that becomes “The Hulk” when they are hungry or need to be fed? What shortcuts or tricks do you use to avoid the beast coming out? Do you think this looks like a sushi roll you would like to enjoy for dinner tonight?