Friday, March 12, 2010

Chicken Cilantro Rolls

Love it or leave it; people aren't ambivalent towards cilantro. I'm on the side of those who are for cilantro right or wrong. In salads, sandwiches, soups, or main courses, I love the jolt of cilantro. I even like it in sweets. One of the treats I sought out when we returned to Vietnam for a visit a couple of years ago was banh ngò thơm. These are thin wafers with a filling of sweetened peanuts with several cilantro leaves pressed into the wafer. They are beautiful, not too sweet, and have a subtle suggestion of cilantro.

Sometimes, subtle is not what you're after. These chicken cilantro rolls assert their cilantro filling. If you don't like cilantro, don't make this recipe. However, if you feel towards cilantro as I do, give them a try. They are quite easy to make, and are a nice accompaniment to cocktails. They would be perfect for a spring or summer cocktail party.

I think I first discovered these more than ten years ago. The recipe is from a really great collection of recipes of Southeast Asian dishes. A Taste of Indochina not only has a wide range of delicious recipes, but many of the recipes are meant to serve two. This is something I appreciate in a cookbook, so it's a cookbook I return to often.

Chicken and Cilantro Rolls

2 TBS oil
2 tsp curry paste, red or green
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 to 3 red chilies, diced
10 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped garlic chives (green onions can be substituted in a pinch)
1 tsp curry paste
2 TBS of the chicken paste mixture

In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the curry paste, garlic, onion, and chilies until softened, about five minutes. Set aside to cool.

Blend the chicken with the cooled onion mixture and egg in a food processor. You want to blend until you have a fairly smooth paste.

For the filling, process the herbs, curry paste and 2 tablespoons of the chicken paste until everything is thoroughly chopped.

To assemble the rolls, divide the chicken paste into six even portions and the cilantro paste into three even portions. On 10-inch square piece of parchment or plastic wrap (I find the plastic wrap easier), spread one portion of the chicken paste into a 4 1/2 inch square. Spread one portion of the cilantro paste on top, then cover with another portion of the chicken paste. Lift the parchment paper or plastic to roll the square into a cylinder, like rolling sushi. Twist the ends to seal. Repeat the process two more times.

Gently steam over boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove rolls from steamer and loosen the wrapping to let liquid drain off. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into 1/2-inch thick diagonal slices. These are equally delicious warm or cold.
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