May 3, 2009

Cherry blossoms and chicken roll-ups

Spring has finally arrived in Toronto!  If we needed any more evidence, the cherry trees are in bloom and it seemed that half of Toronto was in High Park today enjoying the magic.

You would be forgiven if you did not immediately think of Toronto and cherry blossoms in the same sentence but the Japanese cherry grove in High Park, a gift from Tokyo in 1959, draws thousands of visitors each spring when the trees are in bloom.  

Walking under a canopy of fragrant blossoms, it's easy to forget that you are in the middle of a bustling cosmopolitan city, at least until you get to the chip truck! 

G and I spent the afternoon wandering around the park and worked up quite an appetite so we stopped at the grocery store on the way home and picked up some chicken cutlets and arugula for these awesome arugula and goat cheese chicken roll-ups.

These come together in minutes and are fancy enough for company (they'll think you were slaving over a hot stove all day!).

I cheated and bought chicken cutlets because we were short on time but normally I would just buy chicken breasts and butterfly them myself - it's way cheaper and I find that the cutlets are more even that way.  But store-bought cutlets work great too.

One chicken breast half should yield two cutlets - if the breasts have been butterflied, cut them in half vertically down the middle.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with a small handful of arugula and a knob of goat cheese.  Spinach or ham and mozzarella is a great combination too - my mom made these all the time when we were kids.

Try to make sure that you start with the cut side up before you add the toppings because the rolls will be prettier that way but don't sweat it too much.  I didn't pay enough attention and ended up with a couple having cut side out and they were fine.

Roll each cutlet tightly, starting at the smaller end, and secure with a toothpick.

Saute in a little olive oil until golden brown.  This should only take a minute or two then flip over and brown the other side.  They will still be raw on the inside so don't overcook them at this point or they will be shoe leather by the time you finish the dish.

If your saute pan is oven-safe you can simply transfer the pan into a 425°F oven for about 10 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle.  If your pan is not oven-safe, transfer the roll-ups to a baking sheet lightly drizzled with olive oil before transferring to the oven.

If you're being fancy, slice before serving.  Otherwise, just remove the toothpicks and serve up with a side of rice and veggies and you've got a quick and healthy (did I mention delicious?) dinner.

Arugula and Goat Cheese Chicken Roll-Ups
Makes 8 roll-ups (2 per serving)

4 chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
2 cups arugula, washed and trimmed
50g goat cheese (I use one of the small logs)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place cutlets cut-side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle top with salt and pepper.

Spread a small handful of arugula on each cutlet and top with 1/8th of goat cheese.  Starting at the smaller end, tightly roll the cutlet over the filling and secure with a toothpick.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick saute pan over medium heat and place cutlets in pan, seam side down to seal.  Saute cutlets, turning periodically, until golden brown on all sides but still raw in the centre.  

Transfer to oven for approximately 10 minutes until no longer pink.  If your saute pan is not oven-safe transfer cutlets to a lightly oiled baking sheet before transferring to oven.

Slice if desired and serve.

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