Viva Tejas

Viva Tejas! Viva la revolution! Today is Texas Independence day… One hundred and seventy five years ago, the lone star state declared independence from the tyrannical Mexican rule. To commemorate this, I started a tradition last year of preparing a meal composed of Texas grown ingredients.

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This year, I had to work late- so slow cooking anything was not an option. This time of year, my local grocery store has spinach, russet potatoes, mushrooms, and grapefruit that are all locally grown and in season. I took two walks through the grocery store today (one before and one after work). I also spotted some Texas made (but not “seasonal”) ingredients… These are the items that came home with me from the store:

 

Oh yeah, and this:

 

And this is the dish I came up with:

Chicken Roulade with goat cheese and spinach with white wine pan sauce , mashed potato, and pan roasted green beans… Kind of inspired by my new friend KC’s “Signature Dish”:)

 

Here’s the [approximate] recipe — I’m not too good at measuring when cooking like this.

 

Ingredients:

For the Chicken

1 [half] chicken breast, boneless/skinless

2 tblspn Cheesey Girl plain goat cheese

1 handful fresh spinach

Large pot of salted boiling water and ice bath (for blanching)

Hi temp oil (eg. peanut or grape seed)

salt

butcher’s twine

plastic bag

heavy metal spoon or flat meat mallet

For the Pan Sauce

1 cup un-oaked Chardonnay

1 tblspn capers

1 tblspn deli style mustard

1 tblspn butter

pan that was used to roast chicken

 

For the Potato

1 medium sized russet potato

1 tblspn heavy cream

1.5 tblspn butter

salt

oil

 

For the Green Beans

1 Large handful green beans

2 cloves garlic

1 tspn butter

1 tspn olive oil

salt/pepper

blanching water and ice bath (See chicken)

Method:

Potato- peel and cut into 1/2″ cubes, cover with COLD heavily salted water (should taste like sea water). Always start potatoes in cold water to ensure even cooking, if you drop cold potatoes into boiling water the outer layer of starch will slightly gelatinize and slow the cooking of the interior of the potato. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to med-low (simmer) and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. You will know the potatoes are done when a fork penetrates them easily and completely with little to no effort.

When the potatoes are thoroughly cooked (almost falling apart) turn off the heat and reserve in the water until the chicken is done. While the chicken is resting, strain all of the potato liquid, add butter and heavy cream, and mash to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning*

 

*Most home cooks do not season nearly enough. America has created this phobia of salt. Knowledgeable cooks know that salt is a flavor magnifier — it makes things taste more like themselves. Taste as you go and constantly adjust seasoning!

 

Chicken- My butcher puts my chicken in a plastic bag… you can also use a zip-lock bag for this step if your chicken comes in a Styrofoam container (or even better if your chicken comes with feathers attached… now THAT would be local!). Using the back of a heavy [non-slotted] spoon or meat mallet, pound chicken about 1/4″ thick.

 

This is an important step: Open a Texas beer and celebrate your independence!

 

Next, season the inside of the chicken breast with salt, then spread goat cheese.

Did I mention that you should have blanched, shocked, and drained the spinach by now? I blanch my spinach in heavily salted water (think handfuls of salt, not tablespoons… it should taste like sea water) for about 30 seconds then I use a frying spider to immediately transfer it to a bath of 75% ice, 25% water. This sets the color of the spinach.

 

Chlorophyll (the compound that makes green plants green) leaches out of veggies at a given temperature range. The longer vegetables are held in that temperature range, the more green color leaches out of them. To combat this, we can blanch the veggies in heavily salted water (the salt slightly raises the boiling temperature of water) and just as quickly “shock” them by bring it under the “chlorophyll window” by immersing it in the ice bath. Once we blanch and shock the veggies, the color will hold up under a variety of extended cooking techniques.

 

Back to cooking- remove the blanched and shocked spinach and drain thoroughly…very thoroughly. Squeezing the liquid out should be a minor workout. My handful of spinach looked like this once it was drained.

 

Spread this over the goat cheese. Season with salt and nutmeg… nutmeg is one of those spices that works beautifully with greens… I use it in just about all of my spinach applications. But, be careful with the nutmeg! I used about three short strokes on my microplane.

Next, it’s time to roll!

 

My tying technique starts with a surgeon’s knot

 

Next, make loops about every inch and a half, all the way down the rolled breast.

 

 

Once you’ve made it to the end of the breast, flip it over and start threading the long end of your butcher’s twine through the loops.

 

Repeat.

 

Finish the whole thing off with the same surgeon’s knot you started with. Season the outside of the roll with salt.

 

Did you put a pan over medium-high heat? You should have, also add a few teaspoons of that hi-temp oil.

Sear the chicken roulade and pop that sucker in the over (425F)

 

*If you don’t already have one, you should invest in a pan that can go from the stove top directly into the oven… if possible, all of your cookware should meet this requirement. This “Combo-cooking” technique is amazingly versatile.

 

Roast in the oven about eight minutes, turning at least once. Touch the meat, it should feel like the lump of meat just below your thumb*… remove the chicken from the pan and allow it to rest.

 

*normally this would be WAY too rare for chicken, but remember you pounded, stuffed and rolled this chicken. the added softness is due to the filling. For un-rolled chicken, touch your thumb to your middle finger and tap that same lump of meat under your thumb…that’s doneness!

 

Sauce- While the chicken is resting, return the pan to the stove top, add the cup of wine and remove all the little caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan (this will henceforth be known as “de-glazing”).

 

 

Over high heat, reduce the wine to a maple syrup like consistency…

 

then add the capers, and mustard. Stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the butter.

TASTE AND ADJUST SEASONING!

 

The Beans-You should have been doing this while the chicken was cooking by the way… Place olive oil, butter, and garlic in a cold pan over medium heat.

 

Prepare the beans by trimming the ends (they’re not good for eating)

 

 

Blanch [in the same pot you used for the spinach] for 45 seconds, and shock in ice bath.

 

Add blanched beans to warm garlic oil, season with salt and pepper, toss, and put in 425F oven (with chicken). Roast for 3 minutes, toss, and roast for 3 more minutes.

 

Plating- Place a mound of potatoes in center of plate, circle potatoes with roasted green beans. Remove all butcher’s twine from chicken and slice into 1.5″ rounds. place chicken on top of potatoes and top with sauce. Enjoy the great state of Texas and consider succeeding from the union.

 

 

One Response to “Viva Tejas”

  1. Good, basic, fabulous stuff done really well – what’s not to love!?

  2. [...] to blanching the spinach… you’ve seen this technique [...]

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