Ham and Cheese Chicken Rolls

ham cheese chicken rolls

Avui he decidit deixar d’explicar-vos la meva vida i escriure sobre formatge. No definitivament, no patiu, però sí que de tant en tant dedicaré una entrada a un formatge en concret (que al cap i a la fi això és un blog de cuina amb formatge, per tant trobo que té com molt de sentit). Doncs bé, el nostre protagonista d’avui és el formatge fontina.

Fontina_DOP

Aquest formatge, que està protegit per una DOP des del 1996, es produeix a la Vall d’Aosta, als Alps italians, allà a la frontera amb França prop del Mont Blanc. Per poder ser DOP (que es veu que aquesta DOP és una de les més restrictives dels formatges italians) només es pot produir amb tres races de vaca: valldostana peu vermell, valldostana peu negre i valldostana castana (no em mireu així, jo tampoc sabria diferenciar-les, per mi les vaques poden ser blanques i negres o marrons, i aquí s’acaba l’especiació). S’elabora durant tot l’any, però es veu que el millor formatge es produeix a l’estiu, que les vaques se’n van a pasturar a més altitud (deuen tenir calor, pobretes) entre 1800 i 2300 metres i s’alimenten només de pastures riques en essències aromàtiques que li donen una aroma característica a la llet (que els hi donen farigola a les vaques perquè el formatge sigui més bo, vaja). Quan es fa així, es diu fontina d’alpeggio.

Tot això és molt bucòlic, però després resulta que deixen madurar el formatge en antigues excavacions a la pedra de la muntanya per guardar l’arsenal militar durant la Segona Guerra Mundial, reconvertides en caves. De fet, ben mirat, allà on abans hi feien armes ara hi fan formatge, rotllo no a la guerra sí al formatge, que trobo que és poètic i tot.

El primer registre de la producció d’aquest formatge data del 1717, a  l’hospici del Gran San Bernardo i actualment se’n produexien unes 350.000 unitats a l’any. Hi ha tres hipòtesis sobre l’origen del nom: alguns diuen que ve de l’alpeggio Fontin, que són les pastures de la comuna de Quart (que potser és la hipòtesi que trobo més lògica), altres diuen que ve de Fontinaz, una localitat de Saint-Marcel (suposo que els francesos també volien protagonisme) i uns altres que ve senzillament del nom d’una família de formatgers (estareu d’acord amb mi que és la hipòtesi amb menys glamour).

No us en puc descriure el gust, l’heu de tastar. És bo, molt molt bo. Això de la farigola de les vaques deu funcionar.

Ham and Cheese Chicken Rolls

Servings: 6

Prep time: 50 min

You will need:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 8 ham slices (or less, depending on the size of the slice)
  • Fontina cheese (no exact amount here, just buy one small piece and we’ll think of other recipes to use up the leftovers 🙂 )
  • olive oil
  • salt (for an extra flavour I used a herb salt)
  • toothpicks (about 16)

Start by eliminating all the nasty-yellowish-extra fat is usually attached to chicken breasts, and any possible bits of bone or other parts of a chicken’s anatomy that you don’t wish to eat. Then, with a good knife (I mean a really good cutting knife, well sharpened, not a regular it-sort-of-cuts-when-you-apply-enough-pressure-on-it kind of knife, and more of a I-keep-this-around-in-case-Chucky-ever-drops-by kind of knife) slice each chicken breast horizontally, so that you obtain two roughly equal slices of each breast.

Now cut thin slices of the fontina cheese (the thiner the slices are, the easier the assembling part will be) and cut your ham slices to make them be the size of the chicken breast (aprox). Preheat your oven to 180ºC, drizzle a little olive oil on an oven proof dish and get ready for some rock-and-rolling experience.

Take one chicken slice and layers the ham and cheese on top. Now roll it up carefully, pressing with your hands to prevent it from falling appart and to keep all the cheese in its place. We do not want to lose the cheese. At this point you should cut the roll in two, which can be critical for our save-the-cheese movement. Here’s the trick for a cut that will cause no cheese casualties: stick one toothpick in each side of the roll. This way the rolls will keep their shape and you won’t end up having a chicken-cheese-ham mess (which I got until I discovered the toothpick thing). Finally stick another toothpick into each roll, perpendicular to the first. The whole process should look something like this:

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Place all your rolls vertically on the greased dish and sprinkle some salt on top (at this point you could add some herbs, like thyme or rosemary).

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Bake them for 20 min and that’s it! Serve with a salad or with something to scoop up the excess melted cheese, like potatoes, pasta or rice. Remember, never waste cheese!

Enjoy!

ham cheese chicken rolls 2

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Carbonara 9

Carbonara: pasta, Parmesan, bacon and black pepper. The stuff of legends. Need I say more?

Yet the origins of this legendary dish and its name are obscure. Its genesis has perplexed and eluded gastronomers for over five decades. Avid debates are tearing entire countries apart. The slow implosion of black holes is triggered by the mystery that is Carbonara.

First discovered after WWII, one popular theory speaks of the valiant carbonari, or charcoalmen. Since the dish really only has 5 ingredients, this does seem a plausible explanation. Note, though, that during the 19th century, the carbonari were also members of a Neapolitan secret revolutionary society, not unlike the Free Masons, called the Carboneria. The  group took their name from a fifteenth-century Scottish group of rebels who masked their subversive activities by pretending to be colliers. Thus, alla carbonara, by association, also means “in a secretive or subversive fashion”.

It’s riveting. Imagine an entire underground movement devoted to eating Spaghetti alla carbonara (in the associative sense) in remote caves and crumbling safehouses all across the country. Imagine doors stamped with a C, leading to hidden tunnels and ancient treasures. Imagine secret rites and initiation rituals involving the consumption of inordinate amounts of Parmesan cheese and bacon.

Oh, dear carbonari, please please let me into your secret society. I’m the person you are looking for. I was born to work for you. I am a bacon-and-Parmesan-cheese-devouring fiend. I hace been looking for you. I will find you. I will eat all your Parmesan and bacon and pasta.

On a side note, there is also a rumor that the Carbonara might get it’s name from the word carbonata, a term widely used in Renaissance Italy to denote a type of salt-cured and smoked pork, which is, of course, an ingredient in today’s dish, or even that it refers to the pepper we sprinkle on it, which resembles charcoal.

All of these are, of course, ludicrous. The theory involving pasta-adoring revoltionary independence fighters, surreptitous culinary orgies in the dead of night, and, quite possibly, witchcraft drawing from the power of Parmesan eaten at the stroke of midnight, is so much more appealing. Oh, the possibilities. My imagination has put some fruit on its head and is dancing a conga.

The more perceptive amongst you will have noticed, however, that I have not once uttered the sacrilegious word, banned from all Carbonara-related conversations: cream. I did my research. Carbonara does not include cream. Eggs, and plenty of cheese, yes. When beaten and mixed with the pasta they transform into a gloriously creamy goo. Yes. Cream? No. It’s unnecessary, grossly irreverent and utterly superfluous. Extra cheese and bacon? Yes. Cream? No.

I guess you catch my drift.

Carbonara º0

 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Servings: 4

Prep time: 15 minutes

You will need:

  • 400gr Spaghetti
  • 200-300gr bacon, prosciutto, pancetta, or similar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1cup grated Parmesan, plus more to serve
  • freshly cracked black pepper


Carbonara 1

Cook the Spaghetti in generously salted water until al dente, or according to package instructions. Before you drain them, remember to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

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While the pasta is cooking, sauté the bacon/pancetta/whatever you used  in a large skillet until nicely browned and crisp. Leave in the skillet.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and the Parmesan until nicely blended.

Carbonara 4

Reheat the bacon-skillet (oh yes… bacon grease), add the reserved pasta water, toss in the drained spaghetti and agitate the pan over the heat for a few seconds, until the bubbling subsides.

Now comes the part where you need to work fast. You need to cook the egg, but not over direct hear or it will scramble. It might scramble anyway, so go ahead and reach into that hidden-superhero-part of you that lurks at the bottom of your mind. Now is the moment to step forth and man up.

Back to cooking. To achieve the creamy-not-scrambled egg texture, remove the skillet from the heat source, pour in the egg mixture and stir quickly and thoroughly until the eggs thicken. Remember, you need to work quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. If the sauce seems to thick, thin it out with pasta water.

Dish up, season generously with black pepper and extra Parmesan, if so inclined. If you find you are not so inclined, I recommend that you find that inclination. Fast 🙂

Enjoy!

Carbonara 7