I started making chicken roll-ups on those nights when I would get home from work, look in the refrigerator and discover I had chicken breasts and a little of this and a little of that.
Give me half a bag of spinach, 4 or 5 ounces of Swiss cheese and a few common pantry items — garlic, lemon, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce — and an hour, and I can deliver little stuffed chicken rolls that are pretty enough for company. Slice the rolls open and see a swirl of meat, greens and cheese. I like to serve them with buttery boiled new potatoes, a green salad and, perhaps, a glass of sauvignon blanc.
I think of this prep as roulade-light — a recipe that I don’t have to overthink. It is adaptable, too. Because you can use what’s on hand, this dish kills two birds with one stone: You don’t have to go to the grocery store, and you get to use small portions of ingredients that might otherwise go to waste.
If you have arugula or baby kale, but no spinach, make a substitution. If you’ve got muenster or Monterrey jack, but no Swiss, no problem. Not a garlic fan, but you’ve got a shallot or a half of a small sweet onion hanging around, mince that and add.
Many recipes call for pan-frying the rolls to brown the chicken before putting it in the oven. I find if you coat the chicken cutlets with bread crumbs, the crumbs will brown in the oven, giving you a golden finish without the extra step of frying.
Also, I used to have to slice chicken breasts into thinner cutlets to make these rolls, but these days I can find the thinly sliced chicken breasts ready to go at the grocery. This cuts a few more minutes off the preparation time.
If you do have to slice the breasts, it’s easy to do. Using a sharp chef’s knife, carefully cut through the equator of each breast half. Try to slice evenly so that the breast opens like butterfly wings. Separate the halves into two cutlets and trim away any visible fat.
If the chicken cutlets still are too thick to roll — some of these chicken pieces are ridiculously large — place the cutlet between two pieces of plastic wrap. Then, use a meat tenderizer or small cast-iron skillet to pound the chicken until it’s about a ¼-inch thick. You’ll get a tighter, prettier roll with thinner chicken cutlets.
Squeamish about touching raw poultry? Slip on a pair of disposable gloves before getting to work. Note: You will need toothpicks to secure the roll-ups.
Easy Chicken Roll-ups
Active: 20 minutes | Total: 50 minutes
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces (about ¾ cup) fresh spinach
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
4 chicken cutlets (or 2 chicken breasts, skinned, deboned and thinly sliced into cutlets), about 1 pound
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
4 ounces Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 F. Place the water in a glass bowl and add the spinach and garlic. Toss to combine. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted and tender. Stir the lemon zest into the spinach.
Brush each cutlet with oil and dredge both sides in the bread crumbs. Lay a cutlet flat and spoon a quarter of the spinach mixture onto meat, spreading it evenly in the center of the cutlet and leaving about 1/4-inch border around the edges. Layer a quarter of the cheese on top of the spinach. Carefully roll the chicken up and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Lightly grease a medium baking dish with more of the oil and place the chicken rolls in the dish. (It’s OK if they touch.) Pour the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce over the chicken, then finish with a drizzle of the melted butter.
Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165 on an instant-read thermometer. Do not overbake, or the chicken will be dry.
Nutrition: Calories: 430; Total Fat: 19 g; Saturated Fat: 9 g; Cholesterol: 115 mg; Sodium: 350 mg; Carbohydrates: 26 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 38 g