I had a long talk with my mom this morning on the topic of eating lamb on Easter. This is a long-standing tradition in my religion, yet it is one that my family has hardly ever followed. I remember when I was little my mom would scramble to put meat on the Easter dinner table. Back then, meat was elusive, and any kind of meat was much appreciated. Usually my dad would use his “connections” to get us a chicken, which my mom would skillfully butcher to make a variety of dishes: chicken soup, baked chicken, even chicken aspic.
As a child growing up in the countryside, my mom would eat lamb on Easter every year. Things changed, however, as soon as she moved to the city: her family departed from this tradition, and lamb was used less and less in their cooking. I know for certain that my dad didn’t like lamb. As for me, I remember trying a lamb shank once as a child, and not being particularly impressed with its taste.
Lamb is very popular in the UK, and as soon as we moved there I wanted to learn to cook it properly. I made lamb twice and tried my hardest to like it. On my second try, I felt very ill – so ill that I decided to give up lamb completely, a decision that my husband happily agreed to. (His family are not big lamb eaters either) I tried lamb again recently and loved it. I have yet to conquer my fears completely though, so for now, I have decided to “play it safe” with our Easter Sunday meal: I am making chicken stuffed with ciliegini and peppers and wrapped in prosciutto, with fresh green beans.
Initially I wanted to use boneless chicken breast, but the prices were high at the grocery store. In the end I bought boneless chicken thighs, which were cheaper. I think this was a good decision because the relatively small thighs proved to be more manageable than the big chicken breasts, which made the preparation of this dish easy and hurdle-free.
4 boneless chicken thighs
4 thin slices of prosciutto
3 small sweet peppers, of various colors if possible
1 handful fresh parsley
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Slice the peppers lengthwise into strips.
Use a meat tenderizer to pound the chicken thighs to about 1/2-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper.
Put two ciliegini and a few pepper slices on top of each thigh.
One by one, carefully roll the chicken thighs and wrap a slice of prosciutto around each. Use toothpicks to secure the rolls, and place them in a baking dish. Spread the remaining pepper slices in-between the chicken rolls. Add one cup of water and the olive oil – the chicken will need moisture to cook uniformly and not burn.
Put the chicken in the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes or until the juices run clear, adding extra water from time to time if necessary.
While the chicken is cooking, you can start working on the green beans. I thought a fattier ham would give the beans more flavor, so I used pressed bacon. I also thought the fat from the bacon would be enough to cook the beans, but it was not. I added 1/4 stick of butter to prevent the beans and the bacon from burning.
1 lb green beans
1/4 lb pressed bacon (approximately 3 slices)
1/4 stick butter (added later)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Wash the beans and remove the ends. Fill a pot with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to simmer. Add the beans and let them simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander.
Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and put them in a pan with the butter. Melt the butter over a medium heat, stirring frequently.
Add the drained beans to the pan and stir well to combine the ingredients. Cook for a couple more minutes over a medium heat.
Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. The chicken should have a golden-brown color and its juices should run clear.
Serve two pieces of chicken per guest, with green beans on the side and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
This is a dish that my family enjoys eating because it is tasty and satisfying. The inclusion of the prosciutto adds a touch of assertiveness to the chicken, while the pressed bacon gives the beans a fuller flavor without obliterating their natural lightness. Plus, I am a big fan of small sweet peppers, and I think their presence in this dish is just fantastic!
This is what we are going to eat on Easter Sunday. Maybe one day I’ll conquer my fear of lamb. Until then, our Easter menu is dominated by chicken – tasty yet humble, delicate yet almighty flavorful.