Friday, April 3, 2009

Special occasion dinner - sage and proscuitto stuffed chicken with lemon cream sauce

Are you looking for something great for Easter dinner that's not ham? This just might be it! I was browsing through my most recent Taste of Home and saw a recipe for Chicken Saltimbocca in there. I remember my mom making it once when I was a kid as a special treat, though I don't remember what it tasted like or anything else about it, just the awesome name. The recipe in TOH called for sherry, which I don't cook with. I searched online for other recipes and found that there are about a hundred variations of it. So I took a bit of this recipe and a bit of that recipe and made it my own. Alan gave it two thumbs up. It really wasn't complicated, and it tastes fancy. However, it's definitely not diet food...but you could make it more health conscious if you wanted. I'll add my notes about that at the bottom.
I'll post the full recipe in a minute - just giving you a couple of cooking notes with pictures along the way. I dredged the chicken in flour after stuffing them with proscuitto and sage leaves, and sauted them in olive oil with the lid off for about 4 minutes on each side. Then I added about 1/4 cup of chicken broth and put the lid on. Cooking it with a little bit of liquid ensures a nice moist and evenly cooked finish product. If I were to choose only one pan to take out of my kitchen, this deep lidded frying pan is it. We got a similar one for our wedding and it was the sole resident of our pan cupboard for many months.
Then I take the lid off for the last few minutes of cooking and let the juices reduce down to what you see here. Then I remove the chicken breasts and stir in the remaining sauce ingredients for a very rich and flavorful sauce.
I love asparagus, and seeing it in the stores is one of the first harbingers of spring for me. Last night I roasted it, which brings out amazing flavor for very little effort. I also made a simple rice pilaf on the side.
Without further ado, here you go:
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Rice pilaf:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 shallots, minced
2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. pine nuts (optional)
1 1/4 cups long grain white rice (I used basmati)
1 can chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the garlic and shallots in olive oil for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Stir in the pine nuts and rice and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until a few grains of rice are beginning to turn golden, then stir in the chicken broth, turn the heat to low and put the lid on. Cook for 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed, then fluff with a fork and serve.
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Chicken Saltimbocca
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
fresh sage leaves
3 slices of proscuitto (thinly sliced deli ham may be substituted as well)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 t. garlic powder
few grinds pepper
1/2 t. kosher salt
3 T. olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup chicken broth
Slice lengthwise almost all the way through the chicken breasts to form a pocket. Stuff each breast with a slice of proscuitto and a single layer of sage leaves. In a large, covered, non-stick skillet, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. On a plate, mix the flour, garlic, salt and pepper, then lightly dredge each breast in the flour mixture. Fry the breasts on each side for 3-4 minutes or until lightly golden, then pour 1/4 of chicken stock into the pan and put the lid on. Cook for 8-10 minutes, flip the breasts over again and add another 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Cook for another 5 or so minutes and test for doneness by inserting a knife into the thickest part of one breast. If they are not quite done, add a little bit more chicken stock and let it simmer down. Once they are done, remove them to a plate and turn the heat down to medium low. These were such large breasts last night, the we actually wound up splitting them in half and it was still plenty. Obviously, you will need to adjust your cooking time according to the size/thickness of the chicken that you use, but I trust that you all can figure that out.
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Lemon cream sauce
juice and zest of one lemon
2/3 cup cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup broth (optional - for thinning, if needed)
Whisk the lemon juice and zest into the pan drippings. If there are some thicker chunks of flour residue, spoon them out. Once it is smooth, whisk the cream in and bring it to a moderate simmer. Stir in the cheese and simmer/whisk for 2-3 minutes until it is totally incorporated and smooth. If it is too thick for your liking (remember, it'll thicken up further as it cools), add a little bit more broth. Add a few grinds of pepper to taste, and serve immediately over the chicken breasts.
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Roasted Asparagus
1 pound asparagus spears, washed and bottom ends snapped off
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425. Spread the asparagus out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat, then spread them back out in an even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 10-12 minutes, or until they are just beginning to look a little shrively. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper if desired, and serve immediately.
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***Nutrition notes. If you want to make the chicken a little more health conscious, you could simply skip the flour dredging and reduce the olive oil to 1 T. since it wouldn't absorb so much. You could also use half and half in the cream sauce, and reduce the cheese (but where's the fun in that?). Steam the rice and asparagus and you've knocked off another several grams of fat.

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