Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Fly Robin Fly!

Uccellini Scappati - Piccoli Involtini di Pollo, Datteri, Mandorla, Salvia & Basilico
Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Rolls with Dates, Almonds, Sage & Basil

I suppose this is the one that goes down in history as being my "signature dish". It has been the hands-down favorite any time I have ever prepared it... even though I made up the name "Uccellini Scappati" for it- which means "escaped birds" in Italian. You see, I used to love telling people that these were tiny little songbirds on skewers. There is the urban legend that Italians catch and eat teeny-tiny birdies. And no doubt, a strange few probably do! Me? I personally prefer these little bacon-wrapped bites of chicken myself!

The idea came to me many moons ago, when I first tried that Spanish favorite "tapa" of crispy-bacon-wrapped dates. Very tasty, but ultimately a little boring. But it led me to create this slightly more elaborate snack- which is almost substantial enough to become a full meal. Take a look and see!

To make my 6 little birdies here, I needed 1 chicken breast, 12 Almonds, 6 dates, 6 leaves of both sage and basil and a little rosemary, garlic and lemon zest. These were great fun to make- if you have kids- grab 'em and get them to do all the hard work for you!

Cut the chicken breast into reasonable thin strips- as I said, I managed to cut 6 decent strips from one small breast. I did flatten them down a little, but I just used the ball of my hand to do so- no need for a hammer or anything excessive like that here! Once you have the strips of chicken ready, the fun can begin. Press 2 almonds into each date and then take your first strip of chicken and lay a sage leaf on top. Next comes the chicken roll and then around the outside, a half-rasher of bacon, for a little smokey and salty yumminess! Either secure with individual wooden picks as I did in the photos, or thread 2 or 3 of them onto a a skewer and away we go!

These taste wonderful straight from the grill, or you can alternatively fry them in a hot, dry frying pan- no need for any oil at all with the outer layer of bacon. Fry until golden lightly brown and then add a clove of crushed garlic and some chopped rosemary for flavor. Don't add these right at the beginning as they tend to burn otherwise and taste bitter. Season with pepper and just a hint of salt- do remember that the bacon will already have plenty of salt of its own.

After frying for 3-4 minutes and as soon as the bacon begins to brown, add a squeeze of honey and a light splash of vinegar. Toss the rolls gently so that they become coated on all sides and after another minute or two, the rolls will be ready to serve!

I enjoyed mine with a simple salad of portulac greens with a honey, mustard and yogurt dressing. I added a little lemon zest to the rolls for a little freshness and a splash of color- and a final drizzle of whatever juices were left in the pan... and you can bet that I dipped my bread into whichever juices were left on my plate too! This was simply delicious and these are little birds you will not want to escape! Enjoy!

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