Getting excited about chicken might seem unlikely. Though it is known as a versatile food, it’s difficult to imagine a dish that hasn’t been made and served a hundred times already. That is, until someone like Erik Person, chef at Cafe Nomad in Norway, puts his spin on it. Mt. Blue is an ingenious dish with chicken, kale, pears, onions, blue cheese in egg roll wrappers with a tangy vinaigrette that’s as easy to make as it is delicious.

“It’s a twist on an egg roll,” said Person.

The open kitchen at Cafe Nomad might well contribute to the creativity that happens there nearly every day. Person says he enjoys cooking, whether at the cafe or at home entertaining, and coming up with tasty new dishes is one of the reasons why. Food makes people happy, and Person says he’s happy to be able to fill people up with offerings that are as exciting to eat as they are to make.

His Mt. Blue brings the sweetness of pears together with the almost nutty flavor of kale and garlic. Chicken and blue cheese fill out the flavor, and the lemon-Dijon vinaigrette tops the dish off.

With all the ingredients in front of him on the prep counter, Person began the chopping. First the onion was peeled, quartered and sliced. Mincing the garlic was next. Person said garlic is a flavor enhancer and he uses it in moderate amounts; cooking the garlic through gives it a milder, almost nutty, flavor. Next he chopped the kale, careful to remove the stems.

“Kale is not just a garnish anymore,” said Person. “It’s a wonderful ingredient.”

Person said Cafe Nomad uses local ingredients whenever possible, though they’re not as readily available this time of year.

He then cored and chopped the unpeeled pear into small pieces, before slicing the raw chicken into thin strips.

All ingredients prepared, Person moved everything over to the stove and applied the heat.

“With olive oil you have to watch out because if it gets too hot it will smoke on you,” said Person. “And if it does smoke, it’s a do-over. Throw the oil away and start over; it can affect the flavor of your dish.”

Person advised putting the onions over a medium-low heat to avoid cooking too quickly. While the onions worked, the chicken was seasoned and then placed in a pan to cook over medium heat. Once the strips are cooked about halfway on one side they are flipped to heat a few minutes longer.

Once the onions are “soft and a little translucent,” Person added the kale and pears, layering them to create a sort of lid over the onions, helping them cook well. Then the garlic is added, and a bit more cooking.

The key to tender chicken, Person said, is to not overcook it. Thin slices make it easier to cook thoroughly, and waiting for a golden brown color will let you know it’s time to flip them over. Checking the thickest piece if you’re still uncertain is a good way to make sure the poultry is cooked through.

“The food will talk to you when it’s done,” said Person.

After removing the chicken to a blotting towel to cool, Person used a Cuisinart to make the vinaigrette. The key to perfectly emulsified dressing, he pointed out, is using the cylinder-shaped attachment that has a small hole in the bottom, which slowly adds the oil into the mixture as it’s processed. But you can also use a whisk successfully.

Cool the mixture before adding the cheese, to avoid melting it. The filling can be made up to two days in advance; the vinaigrette up to two weeks. Cover the egg roll wrappers to keep them from drying out.

To make the rolls, Person first wets down the edges slightly with water using either a pastry brush or fingertips. Place the filling in the center and carefully roll, folding in ends as you go, then gently pressing to seal. Once all rolls have been made, fry them in oil, blot and serve on a bed of greens. Drizzle vinaigrette and enjoy. (See recipe for all the details.)

This recipe will make 16 egg rolls; serves 8, and the filling can be served on a bed of greens as a salad as well.

Tips:

  • Cut all vegetables before cutting meats to avoid cross-contamination and to avoid having to wash the cutting board in between ingredient preparations.
  • Use a fork to juice the lemon and then run through a strainer to remove seeds.
  • To retain moisture and avoid sticking to the pan, coating the chicken in a seasoned flour mixture is recommended.

Favorite kitchen implement:

Kershaw Shun Classic knife: “It’s a workhorse. The handle is really nice — nice balance,” said Person.

Mt. Blue egg rolls

8 servings

Ingredients:

Egg rolls:

1 package egg roll wrappers
4 cups of canola oil (for deep-frying)
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast

1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups kale, de-stemmed and chopped
2 pears, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 pounds mixed salad greens

Chicken seasoning

Combine:

1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoon flour

Lemon vinaigrette

1 large lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup olive oil

Egg roll filling

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized sauté or fry pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add kale, pears and garlic, cover and continue to cook until pears are tender, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside. Once the filling has cooled, combine with the blue cheese.

Cut chicken into 1/2-inch wide stripes and toss in chicken seasoning. Preheat pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (be careful not to overheat the oil). Place chicken strips in the pan and cook until golden-brown on both sides. Transfer the chicken onto a cookie sheet lined with paper towel to drain. Chop the chicken and cool. Combine with the onion, kale, pear and blue cheese filling.

Place 3 rounded tablespoons of the filling onto an egg roll wrapper and follow the instructions included on the outside of the egg roll package.

Heat the canola oil in a 1/2-inch fry pan to 325 degrees. Fry the egg rolls on each side until golden-brown. Transfer egg rolls onto a sheet pan lined with paper towels.

Lemon vinaigrette:

In a mixing bowl whisk together lemon juice, sugar, Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar. Combine the canola and olive oils together, separate from the lemon mixture. Slowly add the oils while vigorously whisking the lemon mixture.

To serve:

Place mixed greens in the center of a large plate. Drizzle lemon vinaigrette over the greens. Slice two egg rolls in half, at a 45-degree angle. Position the egg rolls atop the greens. Serve within 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.

Next week:

Winter comfort food is spelled S-O-U-P. We stop by the soup experts at Hurricane’s Cafe and Deli in Greene for some souper comfort.


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