Despite coming from a family that cooks regularly and enjoys cooking and preparing food as much as eating it at the table together, I never really learned how to cook during my childhood. I have many memories of my mom decorating some of the most elaborate birthday cakes for my sister and myself, which to this day I have yet to see cakes more beautiful. I have memories of my dad using literally every baking dish in the house to make such an array of Christmas cookies that that would bring a smile to even the Scroogiest of holiday folks, and of course, there are our many memories camping while my parents made exquisite gourmet meals with just a fire and a little gas stove, as well as just simple home cooked meals in the evening after work/school. But that’s not how I learned to cook. Instead, I learned by fumbling my way around the kitchen in college and grad school, and oh yeah, by starting this little blog here But until that point when I decided to learn to cook, I ate a lot of not-awesome stuff after moving away to college. When I was younger, I had taken my family’s cooking for granted and didn’t really understand its value until I realized that I wanted to cook myself and all of a sudden noticed that I hadn’t the slightest clue how.
I spent one summer during my undergrad doing chemistry research in NYC – my roommate and I, not having a lot of cash floating around, were determined to figure out how to cook meals for ourselves. Knowing that ingredients were important, we found markets to go to and a small cheery organic foods store nearby. Of course back then there wasn’t the kind of proliferation of food blogs as there is today, and owning not a single cookbook we just decided to experiment and see what happened – the result was a lot of meals that were barely edible as we tried to figure out what flavors worked with what, and what I consider today to be simple mundane tasks, such as how to scramble an egg, proved a near insurmountable challenge. But – we had a great time and there was a thrill of figuring out how to taste and enjoy food, and a sense of pride in calling a dish our own.
And it was really not until after that New York summer that I was determined to figure out cooking – that fall I started calling my parents a lot more asking questions, and by the time I went on to grad school I had half of my parents’ cookbook collection in my little 500 sq ft. apartment – Marcella Hazan, Gourmet, the entire Cooking with Bon Appetit series that I think was as old as I was, Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker, some family/church recipe compilations, and my favorite instructional magazine series, Cuisine at Home. Learning to cook became something that Ryan and I enjoyed doing together when we started dating, and that love of preparing food has remained a solid foundation in our daily lives ever since.
So when I heard that the Masterchef TV reality show had a “junior” competition, I was really curious to see what these contestants would be preparing, and the snippets I saw totally blew me away – here were mere children, some not even middle school aged, pulling out dishes that I’ve seen few adults be able to master. I was in complete awe, and I’ll admit also a bit envious that these kids had such a profound relationship with food and cooking at such a young age. On the TV show, one of the contestants, a firey personality named Jack, had been eliminated in the finale after presenting what looked to be a gorgeous prosciutto wrapped chicken roulade which he had stuffed with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives. At that moment I thought to myself, “wow, it really says something to the talent of these contestants that such a beautiful flawless plate (at least to my untrained eyes) was grounds for elimination.
I hope to teach baby girl a love for cooking early on. Right now she is a bit small yet, but she is intensely curious about what exactly we are doing spending so much time standing in the kitchen every day. I let her help me pick up veggies and put them in a bowl, or one of us will hold her up so she can watch the other prepping and cooking food. “Here, this is spinach,” and I hand her a leaf. I eat one first (because she’ll try anything that she sees her Mama eating), and encourage her to do the same. She picks it up, tastes it, and spits it out smiling. So we haven’t quite gotten up to leafy greens yet – but once cooked with mushrooms, as long as I remove the spinach stems first, she seems to be a big fan. I figure – and now I’m winging this as much as any other first time parent, so I have no authority here – that letting her be a part of the cooking process as much as possible will help her develop a healthy appreciation for the food we eat. Will she be on national television one day whipping out Michelin-star quality dishes for all to see? Who knows. But I at least hope that she decides that she likes to spend time in the kitchen, and tasting a variety of foods.
So I wanted to give a little homage to these small contestants’ amazing ability and do a spin on Jack’s last dish – I pounded out some butterflied turkey breast and stuffed it with a filling of chèvre, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, sautéed mushrooms and garlic, and then wrapped each roll in prosciutto and baked it in the oven until the meat was fully cooked. We served ours on top of the spinach and mushrooms that our baby girl was so eager to try, alongside some fresh market carrots. I’ve certainly come a long way in my cooking journey from the inedible scrambled egg attempts of my college days, and hopefully by continuing to cook and share our love for preparing food, our baby girl will look back on her childhood with the same fondness of cooking that my husband and I now have. To me, a respect for cooking and food is as important as a respect for the outdoors and nature – and I hope she one day grows up to enjoy both.
- olive oil for sautéing
- 250g button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 100g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- handful of your favorite green olives, pitted and sliced
- 200g chèvre
- 2 turkey breasts, sliced horizontally (or 4 chicken breasts)
- salt and pepper
- 4 slices prosciutto di parma
- Heat olive oil in skillet on medium high heat and add in the garlic and sliced mushrooms, sautéing until the mushrooms are soft and cooked through. In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes together, then blend in the chèvre.
- Preheat an oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Butterfly each turkey breast and cut in half to create two thinner cuts of meat from each breast, or four total.If you are using chicken instead, don't worry about it as they tend to be smaller. Place each cut of meat between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat pounder to hammer it until about 1.5cm (5/8") thick. Season each cut of meat with salt and pepper, and then place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center and roll it tightly. Lift up from the plastic wrap and wrap each roulade with prosciutto, and if necessary, secure in place with toothpicks.
- Place the roulades next to each other in a small dish (so that the roulades are touching and don't have much room - this will help keep them from drying out while baking) and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through (this depends partly on how thick your roulades were). Normally I would brown the roulades in a pan on the stove first, but since this filling was so wet I felt that the less handling, the better and so all their cooking was done in the oven. Use a meat thermometer if you desire, to ensure the meat is cooked to a proper temperature. Remove from the oven, let rest a few minutes, and then slice and serve. Enjoy!
Also submitted to: Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays