My Mom’s Asparagus Chicken Roll-Ups

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

Illustration by Paige Davis, MC ’21, YH Staff

When I moved halfway across the world from South Africa to New Haven, I was expecting to suffer from homesickness. What I didn’t expect was the struggle to find real quality time with everyone I had missed on the few breaks when I do return home. Because the seasons are flipped between hemispheres, everyone my age at home is in the thick of their winter semesters when I am back for my summer break. It does leave me a lot of downtime at home with my mom. Our best catching-up happens in the kitchen, where all we need is a speaker, wine, and a few fresh ingredients. One cold night in Johannesburg this June, my brother and dad were away, leaving just my mom and me at home. We had been binging Gotham, and as the sun set, cups of rooibos tea became glasses of wine. After a glass (or maybe two) each, we decided it was time to cook something. Our fridge was not particularly well-stocked at the time, and we found ourselves with a random assortment of ingredients to try to throw together into something tasty. My mom has always been a creative cook, adding to recipes where she sees fit — if she’s using one at all. We turned up Tom Misch’s Beat Tape 2, took out the main ingredients — asparagus and chicken — from the fridge, and got innovative.

To serve four you will need:

4 chicken breasts

Parchment paper

½ lb asparagus

Sliced mozzarella

⅓ container of shamelessly store-bought pesto

4 pieces prosciutto

Toothpicks or twine

A splash of olive oil

A splash of white wine

½ a lemon

To prepare:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lay out the chicken breasts on a cutting board, cover them in parchment paper, and use a cooking mallet to flatten them until they lie about half an inch thick and feel malleable enough to roll up.
  3. Cover each of the chicken breasts in pesto. It’s up to you how much pesto you’d like to use, my mom isn’t afraid to lather it on.
  4. Lay one piece of prosciutto over each chicken breast. The pesto should work like glue to help the prosciutto stick.
  5. Place a couple of slices of mozzarella on top of the prosciutto.
  6. Take a few pieces of asparagus (three is the magic number, in my experience) and place them across the width of the chicken so that the ends of the asparagus hang off the edge.
  7. Tightly roll up the chicken around the asparagus and use twine or toothpicks to keep the roll in place.

To cook:

  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan before placing in the chicken.
  2. Quickly fry both sides of each chicken breast until the outside is braised.
  3. Squeeze lemon, pour a bit of white wine, and season the chicken with salt and pepper. Then cover the pan with the lid and transfer the chicken into the oven.
  4. Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes until the asparagus is cooked well. If the asparagus begin to look dark, you’re probably starting to overcook them.

My mom is an amazing host and cooks best with her friends and family in the kitchen. Living off-campus has given me a chance to invite guests over for dinner. Last week, I channeled my inner Mom when making this dish for friends. I got the wine out, put Tom Misch’s Beat Tape 2 on, and chatted with friends I haven’t seen in months. I felt the most at home I ever had in New Haven. Even my picky Italian housemate approved.


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