13 April 2009

Richly Filled Tubes, Stuffing Young Flowers

After reading the title and thinking, "This is getting ridiculous," consider for a moment that it's really quite accurate.

How else could you possibly describe chicken roulade filled with bacon and ragout, accompanied by stuffed baby artichokes? Add to that a little bit of rice and a luscious, crisp piece of baked bacon... Along with some of the aforementioned ragout augmented with wine and cumin.

The ragout is actually the remains of the braising aromatics used in last night's osso buco, simmered down further until I could disintegrate the carrots with a whisk. It was slipped inside the heavily pounded chicken breast with some bacon partially cooked in the skillet and cut into small strips. The roulades were first wrapped in plastic and gently cooked in a hot water bath (you can call it "Wearing a Trojan in a hot tub," but food snobs call it a "bain marie"), then unwrapped and baked in a hot oven for 20 min., followed by the broiler for crisping.

The trickiest part is always the baby artichoke. Coaxing a sweet, young thing is always a bit of work - but baby artichokes are also a lot like grown-up artichokes, only smaller. Slice off the tops, pluck off the outer leaves, and cut the stalk... Then steam for 20-30 minutes... Then trim off more outer leaves 'til you get to a point where the leaves are tender enough to swallow without gagging. Cut down the middle. Take a teaspoon and scoop out the middle, and gently finger the soft inner leaves to widen the hole for stuffing. For the stuffing itself, I used basmati rice with a little parsley, topped with breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and drizzled with olive oil. They can go in the same baking dish as the chicken for the same cooking cycle. Drizzle on a bit more bread crumbs, cheese, and olive oil before starting up the broiler for extra texture.

Baby Artichokes are a BITCH, before and after steaming. And no, nothing looks sensual wrapped in polyurethane. But use it or lose it.

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