PARMIGIANA-STYLE CHICKEN ROLLS
Looking to spice up your midweek chicken dinner? This dish offers you a great spin on the traditional use of chicken breast – and adds an Italian twist, as my recipes often do. Finding a way to incorporate some ingredients of my beloved Parmigiana in this chicken recipe was a fun exercise made all the more enjoyable by the fact that I was standing in my mum's kitchen!
After almost a year, I have finally managed to get back to see my family in Italy – ahead of mum's surgery next month and in the middle of their house move. This recipe comes to you directly from my mum's brand new kitchen (so much fun to cook in!). The chicken you see in the photograph was actually saved from burning by her expert hands, as I got distracted playing with our family dog! My mum's Parmigiana is truly one of my all-time favourite things, and whenever I’m back in Italy I inevitably end up cooking and eating aubergines a lot more, as they feature quite prominently in the Mediterranean diet.
Uncooked aubergines have a very mild flavour, which is generally enhanced by roasting and cooking. It is, however, important to remember that aubergines can be very seedy and bitter if not in their prime. A few simple steps to remember when choosing your aubergines: look for smooth and shiny skin and a firm texture; stick to small or medium-sized aubergines, as larger ones will have more seeds and therefore be more bitter.
Fun fact: did you know that aubergines are actually a fruit and more specifically a berry, by botanical definition?—Giada
MAKES 3–4 PORTIONS
1 medium aubergine
700g chicken breast (preferably thinly cut)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
125g smoked scamorza (this is widely available in Italy, but you can substitute this for smoked cheddar or even mozzarella cheese)
2 spring onions
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
salt, parsley, and thyme
olive oil (you can always use a different type of oil if you prefer)
some Parmesan cheese to serve
1.) Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
2.) Cut the aubergine into 1cm cubes and place in a lined oven tray. Sprinkle with olive oil, add a pinch of salt, and roast in the oven for 20–30 mins. You can give the tray a little shake halfway through to ensure the cubes are roasting evenly. (TIP: You could also cook the aubergine in a frying pan instead of roasting it in the oven – I just find that roasting really brings out the flavour. You can also cut the aubergine in half lengthways, score it and roast it whole. Once ready you can easily scoop it out into the pan – think Baba Ghanoush prep.)
3.) While the aubergine is in the oven, thinly slice the spring onions. Place a frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat; once the oil is hot, add the spring onion and lightly fry for approximately 3 mins. Once they’re cooked and soft, turn off the heat and set aside.
4.) Cut the scamorza into 1cm cubes and set aside.
5.) Remove the aubergine from the oven and add to the pan that held the spring onions. (TIP: The aubergine will tend to stick onto the tray or foil, so use a wooden spoon to assist in transferring the cubes to the pan.) Add some parsley and thyme to the pan and adjust the salt if necessary. Place the pan back on a low heat and combine the ingredients well for a couple of minutes. Once the mixture is well combined, add the chopped tomatoes and stir through for another couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
6.) Prepare the chicken breast for filling. I bought really thinly prepped chicken breast fillets from our local butcher, but you could also fillet these yourself and thin them out with the use of a meat mallet. The important thing is that you are looking for a thin and spread breast so it’s easier to place inside and roll up without it falling out (some will anyway, so don't worry too much about it).
7.) Grab a chicken breast and season with some salt. Place a spoonful of aubergine mixture in the central portion, add some cubes of scamorza, then roll the breast up as tight as you can so that the filling remains inside. I have sealed my rolls with some cocktail skewers. Work your way through all the fillets. (TIP: Don't worry if you still have aubergine mixture left over – I have used this to serve with the rolls, like a sauce.)
8.) Once the rolls are ready, heat some oil in a large frying pan. Lightly coat the rolls in some breadcrumbs and place in the hot oil for cooking. I suggest covering the pan with a lid, to maximise the heat inside the pan and ensure the chicken cooks through the layers. Cook the chicken rolls in the pan for approximately 30 minutes, turning halfway through to ensure they brown and crisp up on all sides. You may need to adjust your cooking time depending on the thickness of the chicken and the amount of filling.
9.) Serve with the left-over aubergine, tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of Parmesan on top.
If rolling the filling into the chicken breasts sounds like a messy idea, you could also use the aubergine & tomato mix as a side and add the scamorza into it, at the end. Or even let the scamorza melt over the chicken under a grill before serving.
If you don't like aubergine or maybe are cooking for someone who isn't so keep on it (my sister never has been), you can easily use some other ingredients to jazz up chicken breast and turn it into rolls. Mushrooms and garlic would be a great option as would spinach and ricotta!
For more recipes, visit my food blog HERE. If you end up giving this recipe a go, I would love to see a snap of it. Simply tag @giadasplate on Instagram or send me a DM. Happy cooking and buon appetito!