We have been making stuffed chicken roll-ups of various sorts for a number of years. They have been a family favorites, but we keep experimenting, trying new variations on the theme. We started out with chicken breasts and they were stuffed with cheese and sometimes ham or pepperoni. Breading was a triple dip: flour, egg/milk, bread crumbs with herbs and crushed pine nuts. However, while these were good, the breasts often were drier than we would like and I wanted to reduce the amount of oil needed for a crispy crust. So there has been an evolution. Switching from breasts to boneless thighs, moving where herbs and other flavorings would reside (stuffing, base coat/ dredge, wash, crumbs). Each iteration was a bit different.
Tonight I pushed it a bit farther and we are really happy with the results. So here is the recipe to the best of my recollection (some day I will write as I cook).
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (costco). Remove the fat deposits, and butterfly as flat as you can trying for 6×8″ or so. Pound out under plastic wrap to about 3/8″ thick. The chicken will be fragile and have holes – don’t worry.
10-12 oz chopped frozen spinach. Thaw and wring out as hard as you can.
1/4c lemon juice
3/4 c shredded cheese . We used our staple mexican cheese blend. You could use feta for a sharper flavor, farmers or Monterey jack for a smoother flavor
1/4 c pine nuts
1/8 tsp salt (the cheese already adds salt)
Mix well and break up the spinach lumps
Coating batter / wet dip
1/3 c corn starch
2/3 c milk
2 tsp granulated garlic
2/3 tsp italian seasoning
1/3 tsp sweet paprika
a few good grinds of black pepper
Whisk these together and let sit (and whisk again). It should be a very thin batter, like a crepe batter. Note the mix will thicken after sitting a few minutes.
2/3 c grated parmesan (green can cheese)
2/3 c corn meal
1/4 c panko bread crumbs (can omit )
Building the roll ups
Take the very irregular and pounded out chicken thighs and lay out. Place 1/4 of the spinach mixture in a line along the best looking long dimension. Roll up – yes they will have holes and not be pretty at this point. Tie with string in 3-5 places, to make a rough log.
Dip and roll in the batter. Then dip and roll in the coating. Set aside to rest for 5-15 minutes (longer is better for adhesion of the coating) .
Saute, in a preheated mix of olive oil and bacon grease (about 2 TBSP each) . Place in the pre heated pan and let brown (about 3-4 min) , flip over 180 degrees, and brown again, rotate 90 browning again, and finally flip over.
Now drain off the excess grease and then throw the pan in the oven at 325 on convect for about 20-30 min. Cook to internal temp of 175-180. Yes it sounds high, but these are thighs – you would do breasts to 160-165.
Pull from oven and let sit 5-10 min and serve.
Compared to the regular panko crumb crust, there is about 1/ 2 the absorption of the fat.