It occurred to me when trying out this recipe that it would be lovely to have a teenager or two at the table. Just for dinner mind, I would very much like to give them back before they take over my bathroom. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that this is a recipe with a grisly story best served with a dramatic flourish. Along the lines of; “The last time I ate this for dinner was in the house of a mean Sicilian mafia boss who once dissolved a body in acid”. (The unpleasant gangster in question was of course behind bars at the time I visited his home address, a minor detail which I may or may not reveal depending on the reaction of my audience). However I feel that the frisson of this tale is somewhat lost when you’re eating with a 4 year old wearing fairy wings. Instead; “Here’s some yummy chicken with a lovely ham and cheese surprise in the middle” … really not the same is it.
The breadcrumbs are a twist on the classic way that involtini are cooked. The lovely Italian lady who taught me this recipe in the kitchen of the very same and thankfully absent mafia boss, explained that the crunchy breadcrumb outer layer helps keep the meat soft inside. Another top tip is that if you’re making this for toddlers, the meat can be made even more tender by soaking the chicken breasts in milk for an hour or two before using. I’ve further adapted the tomato sauce so it is cooked and served separately. I know from bitter experience that small people can sometimes be a little particular / wildly irrational about whether sauces are “on” or “next to”.
Ingredients (serves 2 adults or 1 adult and 2 children)
2 chicken breasts
4 thin slices cooked ham
50g of grated cheese (e.g emmental, gruyere or cheddar)
200g tinned tomatoes / passata
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Using a small saucepan, gently heat garlic in a glug of olive oil. Add the tinned tomato or passata, a splosh of water and handful of basil, then simmer gently.
2. Next slice each chicken breast once horizontally. You will now have 4 thinner pieces. In turn place a piece of cling film or baking parchment over each and hit with rolling pin until about 1/2 cm thick.
3.On each chicken piece, lay a piece of cooked ham followed by grated cheese. Then roll up each one and secure with a couple of toothpicks.
4. Dunk each chicken parcel first in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, before rolling in breadcrumbs.
Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium/high, before adding the chicken to cook for about 10 minutes or so. Turn parcels every few minutes until breadcrumbs turn golden brown on the outside and the middle is cooked through.
5. Serve chicken rolls either smothered in the tomato sauce or a safe distance from it, depending on preference. Goes well with little roast potatoes and green beans.