Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Dinner 2009

The menu for this year's Valentine's dinner started with a salad of caramelized almonds, strawberries and blueberry stilton cheese on baby greens with a blush wine vinagrette dressing, followed by buttery potato crescent rolls, Alan's chicken creation and crash hot potatoes. We rounded out the evening with classic creme brulee, which I will do in a separate post. Alan tends to be pretty bold and fearless in mixing flavors and textures together. This was a last minute sort of a creation that sent him running to the store for sharp provolone while I got everything prepped. The results were delicious, interesting and different than your ordinary chicken dinner. He initially intended to stuff the chicken breasts, but found that we had too much good stuff to pull them shut...so we opted for just leaving the good stuff on top. Butterflying the breasts is important, because otherwise you'd have a huge thick hunk of chicken that would be overwhelming. We made enough to serve eight, but you can easily pare it down.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half and butterflied

2 sweet italian sausages (we prefer Colossimo brand)

3 bell peppers (we used one each of red, yellow and orange), sliced in 1/4" rings

2 large shallots, cut in 1/4" slices

olive oil

1 T. brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and minced, divided

2 lemons, zested and juiced, divided

2 T. honey

8 slices sharp provolone cheese

3/4 cup cream

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Grill the sausages until they are crispy on the outside and cooked through, then slice into thin medalions. Saute the peppers and shallots in 3 T. olive oil over medium low heat with a lid on, stirring every few minutes. Sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground pepper, and once they are very soft and lightly browned, sprinkle the brown sugar on and cook with the lid off for another few minutes until nicely caramelized.

Sprinkle each butterflied chicken breast piece with about half the rosemary and lemon zest, as well as some salt and pepper. Grill for 7-8 minutes on each side until cooked through. Baste the last couple minutes of cook time with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice mixed with the honey. Remove to a baking sheet.

On top of each chicken breast layer a generous helping of the caramelized peppers/shallots, several slices of sausage and a slice of provolone. Broil on low for 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

In the mean time, in a medium saucepan, heat up the cream until just simmering. Stir in the parmesan cheese, remaining couple tablespoons of lemon juice, remaining zest, remaining rosemary and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Stir over medium low heat until the cheese is melted and well incorporated.

Serve chicken breasts with a generous drizzle of sauce.

Crash hot potatoes are so simple that even Rachel can make them! She had a great time smashing these.

8 medium sized red skin potatoes (about the size of a large plum works nicely)
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
fresh herbs if desired

Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil and spread it around with a brush (or your fingers if you're lazy like me) until it's evenly coated. Set the potatoes evenly around the baking sheet and use a potatoe masher to smash each one down about half way until they split open nicely. Generously drizzle more olive oil over each one, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and whatever herbs you want.

Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until the edges and peels are a nice crispy golden brown. That's what makes these so awesome - the crispy edges!

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