Monthly Archives: May 2009

Saltimbocca-Nueva


It seems I have a fetish for savory ingredients rolled into a strip of meat. The complexity of flavor in each bite of a rouladen or saltimbocca style preparation of meat is beyond comparison, and I’m a huge fan of complex flavors. Tonight I enjoyed a reckless take on saltimbocca (Italian: jumps in the mouth) that literally did jump into the mouth. Instead of the traditional ingredients of sage and proscuittio, this dish took advantage of the smoky notes of roasted Roma tomatoes and the tangy zip of balsamic marinated portabella mushrooms with a clean parsley finish. Garlic mashed potatoes were also involved, but they were totally overshadowed by the Saltimbocca-Nueva, I will still include instructions for their preparation.

This is a little complicated, but with practice you can pull this off in forty five minutes to an hour. (excluding the time it takes to bone and skin the chicken)

Assemble the following:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast (Do like I did, and bone and skin it your self. It’ll make it that much more satisfying in the end.)
  • Large portabella mushrooms
  • Fresh scallions
  • Garlic
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Red (or whatever) potatoes
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Marjoram (fresh is preferred, but is hard to come by)
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Parsley
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Never forget the olive oil, and black pepper

And do this with it:

  • First, peel (or don’t peel them) and cube the potatoes and start them boiling.
  • Finely chop some garlic and scallions (making sure to discard the roots, but not the bulb) and saute briefly with some olive oil. This should not get too hot, as you’re going to be adding it to the chicken, and you don’t want it to be so hot that it starts to cook the meat.
  • As this “marinade” is cooking, cut the chicken breast laterally into two thin pieces and pound with your favorite meat mallet, until it’s tender and as thin as it can be without falling apart.
  • Put the chicken in a container and pour in the scallions garlic and olive oil, then cover with fresh water. Set aside.
  • Rinse your mushrooms and remove the stems (unless you like the stems) and slice paper thin.
  • Saute the portabella slices with olive oil and lots of balsamic vinegar, until the vinegar has reduced by half and the shrooms are tender. Set aside, liquid intact so they can continue to marinate and absorb all that balsamic goodness.
  • Preheat the broiler and slice the Roma tomatoes as thin as you can without destroying the tomato, and roast under the broiler with olive oil until the edges are crispy brown.
  • By now the potatoes should be done, remove them from the heat and drain. (reserve some of the liquid if you don’t want to use milk to cream them up when you mash them)
  • In the mean time coarsely chop more garlic and saute with butter. This will be added to the potatoes along with more finely chopped scallion greens (greens only, no bulbs)
  • Mash the potatoes and blend in the garlic and butter, along with the scallion greens. Set aside.
  • Drain the chicken, reserving the garlic and scallions to spread over the chicken breast.
  • Layer the tomatoes, mushrooms, Swiss cheese and parsley on the flattened breast.
  • Roll the mixture up into a cylinder shape, and place in a glass baking dish greased with olive oil or butter.
  • Secure the rolls with tooth picks and drizzle with more olive oil
  • Sprinkle with marjoram and black pepper, and reheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the oven is reheating, you have the perfect opportunity to clean up the huge mess you’ve probably made, just be sure you protect the chicken rolls from things like cats and splattering dish water.

  • Bake the rolls for fifteen to twenty minutes. You really have to know your oven well for this, because you can’t use a thermometer to test the temperature of the chicken (it has all those other ingredients in it that will skew the reading) and you don’t want to cut into the roll, as it will ruin the final presentation, and release all those nice flavors into the oven instead of your mouth.
  • As the rolls are finishing up put the heat back under the potatoes and add some milk and stir. Use medium heat so as not to scald the milk, that will ruin the potatoes.
  • After the rolls have cooled for a minute, remove the toothpicks you used to secure them, unless you like surprising your guests with a stab to the roof of the mouth. The rolls should stay together in one piece with the toothpicks removed if they’re done all the way through.
  • Remove the heat from the potatoes and plate. Garnish with parsley or carrots cut up into funky shapes, or whatever you can find in your fridge.
  • It’s nice to cut one of the rolls in half and turn it upwards, so that a cross section is visible right away, making it that much more enticing, interesting and appetizing.
  • Garnish the whole plate with finely chopped scallion greens, serve and enjoy!

Afterthoughts:

  • I use red potatoes almost always, and leave the skin on them when mashing. It adds color, and just makes the potatoes look more interesting, but if you’re using another kind of potato, judge for yourself whether or not to leave the skin on.
  • Cilantro would have been really cool in lieu of parsley.
  • I’ve found that when you can hear the chicken rolls sizzle from inside the closed oven, they’re nearing done. Like I said, know your oven well, getting these cooked completely can be tricky. If you are not in your own kitchen, or are unfamiliar with the oven, and don’t want to take chances on having uncooked poultry being served, you can cook the rolls in a covered pan on low heat, turning them regularly. This usually yields chicken that is tougher and more dry, but dry chicken is better than uncooked chicken. No one likes salmonella.
  • It occurred to me as I was eating, that substituting veal or some other beef for the chicken would have been absolutely amazing. I think I’ll do that next time. In addition to the general amazing-ness beef would have added, using beef would mean less worry about wheter or not the meat was cooked all the way through, unless you have guests that don’t know how to eat red meat and insist on well-done. In the case of the “I want it well done” guest you can just cook the hell out of it, and let them deal with it after all, you tried, right?
  • Yes, threre’s a huge empty spot on the plate that is just begging for some fresh green beans or roasted asparagus… but I was tired and hungry, and just didn’t feel like it.
  • If you have large enough pieces of meat, you can use cooking twine instead of toothpicks to secure the rolls. It’s a pain in the ass, but if you soak the twine in basalmic vinegar or wine (for hours and hours and hours and hours), you’ll get these really neat bands of flavor and color across the length of the roll that add a really nice touch to both presentation and taste.

Potato Salad With a Spin


The words “potato salad” usually conjure up images of some soggy yellow mush, eggs spoiling and mayo turning rancid as it sits in the sun at your neighbors cook out. After you’ve shaken this image from your head and forgotten how much you hate screaming children and prepackaged food from wal-mart , give this potato salad a try! It employs Manzanilla olives, balsamic vinegar, parsley, and a zesty mirepoix to liven up that bland red potato. Garnish with a lemon slice for a bit of extra zing!

Assemble the following:

  • Orzo, cooked, cooled, and rinsed.
  • Large red potatoes cubed
  • Roma Tomatoes, also cubed
  • Portobello Mushrooms sliced to desired thickness
  • Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Manzanilla Olives
  • Peeled and diced carrot
  • Diced red onion
  • Diced fresh garlic
  • Butter
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Never forget the olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, and salt

And do this with it:

  • Cube the potatoes so that you’re working with 1/4 inch cubes, this will make them cook quicker, and be easier to eat. No one like to have to cut up their potato salad. Blanch them in boiling water for about fifteen minutes, depending on how crisp you like them.
  • Cook the orzo and rinse it to remove the starch, the potatoes will provide enough starch to bond the whole thing together. In the end and we’re trying to avoid mushy here and too much starch will get you there FAST! Drizzle a little olive oil over it and toss it with some black pepper.
  • While the potatoes and orzo are cooling, whip up the mirepoix. Finely dice the carrot, onion and garlic. Keep the carrots separate from the rest of the mirepoix. You’ll see why in a minute.
  • Over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until it is just about to caramelize, then turn up the heat and add a couple of tablespoons of butter.
  • After the butter has melted, reduce the heat and add the carrots. You don’t want the onions or garlic to caramelize, unlike a traditional mirepoix.
  • As the carrots are softening up a little (not too much) chop the parsley, dice the tomatoes, and slice the mushrooms. Don’t let the carrots cook completely through; you want the flavour in the mirepoix, but this is a salad not a soup and again we’re avoiding mushy, so you want the carrots to be a bit crisp.
  • Saute the mushrooms and tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil until tender, and set aside (juices included) for a while to cool and marinate. I say saute the hell out of them, you want these fully cooked and full of flavor. Just don’t burn the vinegar it smells awful, and will ruin the tomatoes and shrooms.
  • The mirepoix should be done by now, deglaze the pan with a few sprinkles of balsamic or a dash of your favourite wine, then remove it to a separate container with all it’s juices intact so it too can marinate in it’s buttery goodness. Throw some more balsamic on that if you’d like, but I prefer some ground pepper and a little sage.
  • Toss the potatoes with the orzo and parsley, not forgetting the olive oil and maybe a pinch of salt.
  • After everything else has cooled, blend everything except the olives and the tomatoes and shrooms in a large container.
  • Drain the liquid off the tomatoes and mushrooms, as well as the olives. If you have use for these save and combine the two liquids… I can’t stand to throw balsamic away and olive brine gives so many different things an unexpected punch, they’re an unstoppable team when used right!
  • Toss in the drained olives, tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • Drizzle some olive oil and toss it all thoroughly.
  • Refrigerate for at least one hour (not critical) and garnish with a lemon slice and extra parsley when serving.

Afterthoughts:

  • Don’t cook the potatoes at all, or maybe roast them over fire. The whole concept of this take on potato salad is to deliver a crisp, vegetable like crunch that you could easily add some zest to a picnic.
  • Be sure to rinse the orzo well, maybe even toss it with some salt and then rinse again to break down the exceptionally sticky starch bonds that orzo can create. Or if you like the salt, don’t re-rinse, just make sure you prevent the starch in the orzo from bonding with the rest of the salad as best you can. You want the potato starch to hold things together, not the pasta starch.
  • The mirepoix can be played with. It gives the dish it’s flavour, so changing the mirepoix can drastically change the outcome. I thought of adding crushed red pepper myself. Just make sure it’s not cooked to death, you want the crispy crunch of the vegetables.
  • Add uncooked veggies to the whole thing, the less mush the better!