The first food I ever cooked for a crowd without anyone’s help was picnic food when I was 15. I Back in those times, picnic food meant fried chicken and potato salad, both of which I was a master at. But, I haven’t made or eaten either in many years, somehow losing my taste for those heavier choices and casting mayonnaise salad dressings aside for any outdoor gathering.
But, quite by accident, I discovered better more “spinach tiger” picnic food.
A few weeks ago, I made my first chicken roulade taking inspiration from rainbow chard. We didn’t get to eat it until the next day because I needed pictures. And, we ate it cold. And, we loved it. A week later, I made it again, with the plan of eating on the deck with a bottle of wine, fell apart, as inside our crazy life, we forgot to eat dinner and the above platter sat out for almost three hours. And, we discovered it was just as good at room temperature.
Suddenly fireworks went off and I immediately envisioned a sunny day, a coolish breeze and a picnic. I live in a picnic neighborhood, landscaped amidst the Tennessee hills. Our subdivision is surrounded by local farms, historic property that is everything you envision when you think of the romance of Tennessee. We can walk to trails or picnic areas that are designed to capture the landscape. Even the Olympic-sized pool is placed in such a setting as too look like a country club, surrounded by a horse farm, a blueberry farm and a local cow ranch.
I realize it’s a lot more fitting for that good old fashioned southern fried chicken picnic, but the idea of a lighter chicken roulade with grape tomatoes is a picnic I could enjoy a little more often. I’m envisioning a loaf of french bread, fresh berries and some good company.
In the past, roulade never appealed to me. I can only remember eating it at ladies lunches and it never gave me a “culinary moment.” Usually, rubbery, boring and seemingly cheap. I never recall “taste.”
This is different. Firstly, you could eat the stuffing all by itself as a vegetable. And, you probably will steal several spoonfuls while preparing.
Swiss chard never gets slimy the way spinach can, and never overpowers its seasonings. I used onion, pine nuts, dried cherries and berries, balsamic vinegar, and pecorino romano cheese. Usually, On occasion, I’ll add pancetta or bacon. It’s a most flavorful and harmonious combination of ingredients.
Dried cherries, berries, from the Cherry Stop begin are a sweet and tart addition to stuffing.
This recipes will give you future options.
The swiss chard mixture can be:
Served as a side vegetable.
Stuffed into a ravioli.
Mixed with rice.
Served with pasta.
Stuffed into mushrooms.
Further flavored with crumbled bacon, diced pancetta
The chicken roulade can be:
Served over risotto or mashed potatoes.
Served hot or cold.
Served in a roll.
Served in a salad.
Served including a slice of prosciutto, fontina cheese or swiss.
- 2 chicken breasts, flattened
- olive oil for browning meat
- ½ large onion, or 2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons dried fruit (golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, dried cherries)
- 1 bunch rainbow chard (can use optional swiss chard or spinach)
- 2 t pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated
- Sea salt, black pepper to taste
- Prepare the chicken breasts by placing inside a large ziplock bag. Using a cast iron pan (or similar) flatten. Meat pounders tend to desecrate meat and make unseemly marks. Flat pots or pans work better and don’t harm the raw meat.
- Salt and set aside. This will give the chicken breasts time to reduce temperature, which will help them cook in the center more easily.
- Prepare the swiss chard mixture: Wash and dry thoroughly. Remove any discolored parts. Trim the ends. Cut the stalks and separate. These need a finer dice than the leaves.
- Cut leaves into small pieces.
- Soak dried fruit in a little water.
- Heat onion and oil in pan at same time. Once onion is softened almost golden, add garlic and cook for about a minute, being careful not burn garlic.
- Add pine nuts to toast, stirring pan.
- Drain dried fruit, dice and add to pan. Add in stalks and cook for a few minutes until softened.
- Add in leaves, continuing stirring pan, incorporating all ingredients. Turn pan off. Swiss chard will continue to cook. Do not overcook. Allow to to come to room temperature.
- Assembly: Sprinkle cheese on chicken breasts. Spread mixture on, careful to not overdo. Roll up as tightly as you can and tie each with three strings. One in middle and one at each end.
- Roll in flour. Pan fry until browned, turning to each side. Finish in hot oven of 375 for 8-10 minutes.
- If eating hot, allow chicken to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. I used a cast pan to do all parts of the dish. This makes it easy to go from stove top to oven.