A Venetian chicken dish that you can make ahead

December 16, 2007|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

In October, during a trip to Italy with friends, we took a cooking lesson with Lelia Passi, a vivacious Italian who lives in a palace overlooking Venice's Grand Canal. Our host was unpretentious and charming -- just like her food. She shepherded us into her kitchen where we helped prepare the night's dishes.

The main course consisted of tender baked chicken breasts, topped with Fontina and prosciutto, all napped with a creamy porcini mushroom sauce. This entree was Passi's contribution, and she included the directions for it with our packet of recipes.

At home, I discovered that the chicken breasts had been halved, then coated in a little curry and oil. The curry is not easily discernible in the finished dish but adds important flavor. The chicken can be assembled several hours ahead and needs only 20 minutes to bake. The recipe can serve 12.

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.

VENETIAN CHICKEN WITH PORCINI MUSHROOM, PROSCIUTTO AND FONTINA

Serves 12 with one breast each or 6 with two

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

3 large whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split so that you have 6 breasts (3 pounds total) (see note)

1 tablespoon curry powder

6 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 pound brown mushrooms (Baby bellas work well), cleaned and thinly sliced through stems

1/2 cup dry sherry or dry Marsala, divided use

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

12 paper-thin slices prosciutto

one 10- to 12-ounce piece Italian Fontina cheese

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley plus 12 sprigs for garnish

Use 2 tablespoons of the butter to generously grease two 9- by 13-inch (or similar size) baking pans.

Place porcini in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let stand until softened, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain in a sieve lined with a double thickness of paper towels, and reserve soaking liquid. Coarsely chop mushrooms.

Place a chicken breast on a work surface and, with a sharp knife held parallel to the surface, cut breast in half horizontally. Repeat with remaining breasts. You will have 12 chicken pieces. In a shallow dish, whisk curry powder and olive oil together, then dip each breast in the oil and coat well on all sides.

Place a heavy, large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough breasts to fit comfortably in a single layer. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, turning several times, 5 to 6 minutes total. Remove cooked chicken to prepared pans and arrange in a single layer, 6 breasts in each. Continue until all chicken has been sauteed. Salt and pepper breasts.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add sliced brown mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and no liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Season with the 3/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the sherry or Marsala to the pan. Cook until all liquid has evaporated, about a minute. Add porcini, 1 cup of the reserved soaking liquid, cream and remaining sherry. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens very slightly, about 4 minutes or longer.

Top each breast with a slice of prosciutto cut to fit. Use a cheese slicer and cut enough thin slices of cheese to cover each breast. (You may have some prosciutto and cheese left over.) Divide the sauce and pour half over the chicken in each pan. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat to 400 degrees. Bake until cheese has melted and chicken is hot all the way through, 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with parsley and garnish each breast with a parsley sprig.

Note: Buy best-quality chicken breasts, such as Empire or Whole Foods. Each whole breast should be about 1 pound.

Per serving: 418 calories, 34 grams protein, 29 grams fat, 14 grams saturated fat, 5 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 134 milligrams cholesterol, 614 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.

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