Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stuff Chicken Breasts wrapped in Prosciutto


I have had lots of inspiration in my culinary career and some of my best ideas have come from the places I have worked. I don't think there is a better way to learn how to cook, then by working in great restaurants. Working at Alto Italian Restaurant in Lemont, PA was my first fine dining cooking experience and this is where I got the inspiration for this dish. Chicken breast stuffed with a Asiago Cheese and Sun dried tomato stuffing wrapped in Prosciutto on top of basil pesto spaghetti. Bon Appétit!


Ingredients 


  • 2 Bakery Rolls, cubed (I used rosemary rolls from Wegman's, delicious!) 
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil 
  • 4 Chicken Cutlets 
  • 2 Cups Asiago Pressato, Shredded 
  • 1 Cup Sun Dried Tomato, Diced  
  • 8 Slices of Prosciutto 
  • Box of Spaghetti, or make your own 
  • 8 oz. Jar of Basil Pesto, or make your own 
  • Fresh Parmesan, for Garnish 
  • Fresh Parsley, diced for garnish
  • Chicken Brine (optional; recipe follows)



Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Toss the cubed rolls in the olive oil and coat evenly. Spread the cubes evenly over a baking sheet and bake in oven for about 15 min or until golden brown and crunchy (note: if you’re feeling lazy,you could always use store bought croutons)

Take your chicken breasts and put them in either a large zip lock bag or in between some parchment paper. Pound out the chicken from the center outward using a heavy-bottomed skillet or mallet. Be firm but controlled with your strokes, try to get the chicken as thin as possible without destroying it. 

Chicken Breasts thinly pounded
Lay the chicken breasts bottom side up and first lay a layer of croutons and then sprinkle with the diced sun-dried tomato and shredded asiago. Then, start at the bottom, pointed end of the breast, wrap and roll the breast over the stuffing. After you have rolled each breast, wrap them with 2 slices of Prosciutto, making sure to cover the whole breast. (note: the prosciutto should aid in keeping the breasts together, if need be tie some kitchen twine around to help secure them)

Chicken Breasts w/ stuffing
Wrapped with Prosciutto


Put the stuffed chicken breasts in a baking dish and bake for about 30 min or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F.


With 10 or so minutes left for the chicken,bring a pot of salt water to a boil and add in the pasta cooking until Al Dente. Drain the pasta and toss the spaghetti with the basil pesto. Remove chicken from oven, slice it, plate it on top of the pasta and garnish with parmesan and parsley (note: Using a vegetable peeler to grate the parmesan gives you thin, sliced chunks of parmesan).

Final Product

Looking to kick up your chicken for any meal?? Try this delicious brine!

Ingredients
  • 1 Quart Water
  • 1/4 Cup of Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt (International Section of most grocery stores)
  • 1.5 Tsp Whole Peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/4 Bunch of Parsley 
Directions

Makes 1 Quart

In a medium sauce pan bring water to a bowl. Add in remain ingredients, stir and continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and let cool down completely and transfer (lemon, garlic, everything in the pot)  to a container or 1 quart mason jar and refrigerate. 

Whenever you are ready to brine, just put your chicken in a large zip lock and pour the brine in so that the chicken is completely covered and let sit for about 2 hours or up to 12 hours (note: Brining can make your food taste great, but over brining can lead it to be very salty so experiment with your brining times). 


Kitchen Word of the Day

Brining: In cooking, brining is a process similar to marination in which meat is soaked in brine before cooking. Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation. The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes. This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis. The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins. The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.





 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie


Everybody remembers from their childhood having pot pies for dinner. I'm not even talking about homemade  pot pies either. I'm talking about the individual sized frozen ones that came in an aluminum pie pan. They were often tucked back in the freezer for those nights that nobody felt like cooking. You would toss them in the oven and then flip them over onto your plate in order to get them out of the pie pan. There was nothing special about them, but for some reason, to me at least, they always tasted delicious. This recipe definitely has that nostalgic pot pie taste, but with fresh ingredients. Bon Appétit!

Ingredients


Filling:
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 3 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
  • 3 stalks of celery, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 large potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 12 Pearl Onions, chopped
  • 24 black peppercorns
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves


Béchamel:
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • generous pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste

1 egg, beaten
2 Pie Crust Rounds (store bought or homemade)

Raw Veggies and Aromatics
Place the prepared potatoes, carrots, and onions in a saucepan with the bay leafs, thyme sprigs and peppercorns, then top with water to cover. Heat on a medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, leaving to cook until just tender (8-10 minutes).

Drain the vegetables, and discard the aromatics. Spread out on a large dish and leave on a dish to cool.

Pearl Onions - Potatoes - Carrots - Celery - Chicken
While the other vegetables are cooking, quickly blanch the celery for just over a minute in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain and cool in a bowl of ice water, then add to the dish of cooling vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium saucepan heat the butter over medium heat. Once melted, slowly whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes (lower the heat to ensure the mixture doesn’t color). Whisk in the milk, adjusting the heat to achieve a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to roughly 2 cups (30-40 minutes). Make sure you move the whisk over the bottom and corners of the pan to be prevent the béchamel from burning.

Pour the completed béchamel through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Add the parsley, thyme, and cayenne, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Béchamel Sauce
Place your first pie crust round into the bottom of a 9-10" pie plate, gently easing the dough into the corners and up the sides. Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie crust (you can make one large pie, or several individual servings), and evenly pour the béchamel over the ingredients. Place the second pie crust round over the pie dish and cut off any excess around the edges, firmly pressing down around the rim to secure. Brush the top of the pie lightly with egg wash and cut slits in the top of the pie in order to let excess steam escape.

Veggies, Chicken and Béchamel Sauce in Pie Crust

Pie crust top brushed with beaten egg
Place in the preheated oven (on the lower rack) and bake until golden brown (45-55 minutes). If the crust browns too quickly, cover with aluminium foil. Remove from the oven and leave to rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Finished Product - Don't mind the poor presentation :)


Kitchen Word of the Day

Béchamel Sauce: Also known as white sauce, is one of the five mother sauces created by Antonin Carême then later reclassified by Auguste Escoffier. It is used in many recipes of Italian cuisine, for example lasagne. It is used as the base for other sauces (such as Mornay sauce, which is Béchamel with cheese). Béchamel Sauce is traditionally made by whisking scalded milk gradually into a white roux (equal parts butter and flour by weight). Another method, considered less traditional, is to whisk kneaded flour-butter (beurre manié) into scalded milk. The thickness of the final sauce depends on the proportions of milk and flour.