Stuffed Chicken Thigh Roulade

People who will happily eat chicken breast often turn their noses up at eating chicken thighs, possibly because they’re considered ‘dark meat’. Actually, chicken thighs tend to have a more intense flavor than breast and the meat stays juicy and tender during cooking.

It’s hard to overcook chicken thighs. If you use moist-heat cooking techniques like braising, chicken thighs will forgive you if you leave them in the oven too long. The worst that can happen is that if you go over your braising time, the meat will just fall off the bone.

Thighs have a good meat-to-bone ratio relative to other bone-in chicken parts, such as drumsticks and wings, which means they’re good value for money. Personally, give me a thigh any day, I love the dark meat. Strangely enough, for the many times I’ve made roulades, I’ve never thought to use chicken thighs.

Literally meaning ‘rolled’ in French, the word roulade signifies a lot of things. Traditionally, it’s a preparation reserved for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, stuffed with cheeses, vegetables, and other meats. This chicken thigh roulade for example is a great and easy way to jazz up some really simple ingredients. 

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Stuffed Chicken Thigh Roulade
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, sauté onion & mushrooms until tender; remove from heat & cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Arrange chicken thighs on a large sheet of foil paper, to form a large rectangle.
  4. Mix shredded cheese & parsley into cooled mushroom/onion mixture. Sprinkle chicken with spices, salt & pepper.
  5. Arrange stuffing along middle of the chicken rectangular, evenly distributing. Roll up, enclosing filling, using the foil to help you tighten the roll.
  6. Carefully wrap roll with slices of bacon, securing with toothpicks if needed. Place foil with roulade centered on it on a deep baking sheet.
  7. Bake 45 minutes. Chicken is done when juices run clear or internal temperature is 180 F. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, slice & serve.

Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms

Some years ago I started using leeks and have never looked back since. Brion & I have never tired of that subtle flavor. When a recipe calls for leeks, it usually indicates to use the white and light green parts only and to either discard the ‘tough dark green tops’ or save them for another use.

So what are these ‘other uses’? Usually it refers to using the green tops as add-ins for soups or stock, only to be removed once they have imparted their wonderful layer of flavor and discarded.

When you think about it, we cook up all kinds of vegetables that are ‘tough’ to start out with yet end up nice and tender when cooked or braised. I find, using the dark green tops presents no issues, just cook them a bit longer than the tender leaves.

On the other hand, you can braise the dark green tops with some butter/olive oil, chicken or veg stock, minced garlic, dried chili flakes, salt & pepper & some lemon juice and make a great side dish to serve with fish or pasta etc.

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Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms
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Instructions
Pasta & Filling
  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells & cook 3 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the package instructions. Drain pasta
  2. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute chopped bacon until cooked. Remove from saucepan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Add leeks, garlic & mushrooms to bacon drippings. Sauté until leeks are soft; season with salt & pepper. Add salmon, gently combine & set aside.
Garlic Sauce
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add butter & olive oil. Once melted, add garlic then sauté until light golden brown, about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn. Sprinkle in flour; whisk & sauté for 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk while whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with salt & pepper then switch to a wooden spoon & stir constantly until mixture is thick & bubbly, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat & stir in mozzarella cheese, garlic powder & parsley flakes until smooth. Taste then adjust salt & pepper if necessary.
Topping
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add olive oil. Add breadcrumbs & cook, stirring until toasted & golden in color. Remove from heat & place in a small bowl; combine with parmesan cheese.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a 13 X 9-inch baking dish, spread a small amount of garlic sauce over the bottom. To filling mixture, add reserved bacon & enough garlic sauce to help the filling stick together.
  3. Divide filling between the 16 cooked pasta shells & place in baking dish. Top with any remaining garlic sauce then sprinkle topping over all.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes making sure not to overcook the salmon. Serve.

Italian Sausage Lasagna

Whether you prefer a sweet or spicy variety, there’s no denying the delicious versatility of Italian sausage.

The predominant flavor in ‘mild’ Italian sausage is fennel, or actual anise, a licorice like flavor with a little more earthiness. This emulates the style of sausages in Northern Italy, known for milder flavors with a noticeable presence of both fennel and garlic. It will also typically have a small amount of red pepper flakes to open up the flavors.

The ‘hot’ designation means a higher content of pepper flakes, or the addition of cayenne, giving you that spicier flavor that is more common in the southern regions of Italy.

‘Sweet’ is pretty straightforward, little bit of sugar, milder flavors around that, sometimes some mild herbs, typically a lot of basil and such to round it out.

In this meal, the layers of lasagna noodles blanket a creamy béchamel sauce and a filling with a savory ‘Italian sausage’ flavor and tender artichokes. Truly a comfort food meal.

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Italian Sausage Lasagna
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Drain artichokes (reserving oil) & slice in halves; set aside. In a heavy skillet, heat artichoke marinade oil; sauté garlic, onions & mushrooms for a few minutes.
  2. Add ground pork, sun-dried tomatoes & spices. Cook over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; add artichokes. Remove from skillet & set aside until ready to assemble lasagna.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. In the skillet, melt butter over low heat. Once the butter is completely melted and bubbling, add the flour & mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes until flour just begins to take on some color.
  2. Slowly start adding the milk, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Continue to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring often. Season with a pinch of salt, white pepper & nutmeg.
  3. Set aside until you are ready to use, by pouring the sauce into a glass bowl & covering with a buttered sheet of plastic wrap. Cook lasagna noodles. Grate cheeses.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, spread 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce on the bottom. (Set aside 1 cup of the béchamel sauce for the top.) Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles over sauce; spread some of the filling over noodles, top with a sprinkling of the grated cheeses. (Make sure to reserve a bit of cheese for the topping.) Repeat layers, ending with noodles.
  3. Spread the reserved 1 cup of béchamel sauce over the noodles & top withy the remaining grated cheese. Cover with foil, bake for 35 minutes, remove foil & bake until bubbly & lightly browned on top, about another 15-20 minutes.
  4. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Salmon Picnic Empanadas

No matter what the stuffing or style is, love for the empanada is not a difficult one to understand. They are cheap, easy to eat, transportable, and versatile.

Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic. Eating outdoors, spaced apart is probably one of the safest ways to gather during the ongoing pandemic crisis. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down. If you can’t make it to a park or field, your yard, porch or any flat surface with a little grass (or sand), some sun (& shade) will do.

Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks (hot or cold), but they can easily make a full and satisfying main course.

The very basics for an empanada are a combination of three things; dough, filling and a cooking method. The dough can be made from wheat flour, cornmeal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes etc. and the fillings can consist of meat, fish or vegetables. The cooking method is usually to be baked or fried although some can be cooked on a griddle or grill.

According to food historians, empanadas with seafood filling first appeared in a 1520 cookbook, published during the Moorish invasions.

I was real interested to see what I could do to make some salmon empanadas taste special. We found they were good as a hot meal served with the remaining ‘sauce’ or eaten COLD for a picnic lunch.

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Salmon Picnic Empanadas
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Servings
6 inch EMPANADAS
Servings
6 inch EMPANADAS
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. Do NOT overwork dough.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
Soy Sauce
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle with flour. Allow to cook for a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk together broth, milk & soy sauce. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Filling
  1. In the skillet, sauté salmon filet in 1 Tbsp oil until JUST cooked. Remove to a dish. With a fork, 'shred' salmon; set aside.
  2. In the skillet, sauté vegetables in remaining Tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes. Add seasonings, shredded salmon, 1/3 cup prepared soy sauce & grated cheddar. Toss to combine; set aside to cool.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Divide chilled pastry into 10 balls. Roll each one in cornmeal. Place a ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & roll into a 6-inch circle.
  2. Divide filling into 10 portions. Place a portion on one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (on filled side). With your fingertips, moisten edge of pastry with a bit of milk or water. Flip opposite side over filling & press edges together to enclose it well. Use a fork to make the classic look.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Repeat with remaining pastry & filling. Lay empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is baked & slightly browned.