I know, I know…this recipe looks like someone didn’t plan aheee-aaad! And would you want to eat a dish where the asparagus spears are trying to escape? Well, yes, because it’s delicious. And has an unusual presentation. There are a lot of Italian recipes where food is rolled up with other food stuffed inside. The Italians call these bundles involtini which means “little bundles” in Italian. Chicken involtini is a simple dish–just five ingredients.
I chose to make these involtini with chicken although they can be made just as easily with veal pounded thin. Chicken, however, costs less than half of what veal costs, at least in my supermarkets, so I’ve made these with chicken. Besides the meat and asparagus, there are slices of tasty mortadella and creamy fontina cheese. A little dusting with flour and you have a dish and they are ready for the pan.
Take a sharp knife and cut your chicken breasts in half horizontally. Pound each piece with the smooth side of a meat mallot until they’re flattened. Parboil the asparagus spears for about 3 minutes, then drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking water. (Steam the asparagus if you prefer.)
Cut the mortadella and fontina slices so that they fit neatly on top of and slightly inside of the chicken breasts. Oops, I got a little sloppy with my mortadella slice. So sue me. Then place two parboiled asparagus spears on top of the meat and cheese, facing in opposite directions. The spear tips should be poking outside the edges of the chicken.
Roll ’em up and tie each chicken involtini with two pieces of kitchen twine.
Lightly roll the involtini in flour and dust off the excess. Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet and fry the bundles, turning frequently, about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove them from the frying pan and keep them warm.
Deglaze the pan with dry Marsala, scraping up the brown bits, and add both the final tablespoon of butter and the reserve 3 tablespoons of asparagus cooking water. Boil the liquid for 3-4 minutes until it is reduced and darkened. Remove the string from the chicken involtini and pour the sauce over them. Serve. Enjoy.
Chicken Involtini with Asparagus, Mortadella and Fontina
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: One hour
- Wash asparagus and snap off the reedy ends. Parboil the asparagus in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. (You can steam the asparagus if you prefer.)
- Place each chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound thin with the smooth side of a meat mallet. Trim the mortadella and cheese slices so that they're slightly smaller than the chicken slices.
- Lay a slice of mortadella and then a slice of cheese over each piece of chicken. Place one asparagus spear in the middle of a piece of chicken with its tip hanging out to the side. Place a second spear again in the middle of the piece of chicken with its tip sticking out the other way.
- Roll up each piece of chicken, asparagus spears sticking out the sides, and secure the bundles with two pieces of kitchen twine. Roll the bundles in flour and shake off the excess.
- In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the oil and fry the bundles over low heat for about 10 minutes, turning frequently, until they are golden and cooked through. Transfer to a serving dish, remove the twine and keep warm.
- Add the Marsala, the remaining tablespoon of butter and the reserved cooking liquid to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan. When the juices have reduced, and darkened, taste for seasoning and pour them over the chicken bundles. Serve immediately.