February 5, 2018

Mushroom & Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken

Despite having absolutely no free time this month, I do love making fancy dinners. There's something to be said for coming home from a long day in the lab and having something homemade and classy to dig into instead of yet another frozen pizza. This is especially important for those of you who would like to make your significant other something special instead of resorting to takeout or whipping up a fancy bowl of cereal for dinner on Valentine's Day. Chicken is one of the easiest, most versatile proteins to cook, but if you dress it up with a bit of cheese, mushrooms, and prosciutto you'll have quite an impressive meal.

Butterflying the chicken here is a must. That sounds intimidating if you've never done it, but it's really quite easy. To stuff a chicken breast, you need to have a large, thin piece of chicken so you can roll it into itself. Yes, they sell thin chicken cutlets pretty widely now, but those pieces are too small for this. You want to buy big chicken breasts here and cut a slit most of the way through the middle hamburger-style (not hot dog style) so that when you open the flaps it looks like a butterfly (or a heart, since it's almost Valentine's Day and all). From there, it's probably still too thick, so take a meat mallet/tenderizer or rolling pin and hit it a few times until it's about 1/4" thick and even. Just don't overdo it to the point where it starts to fall apart; you still need this thing to hold together when you stuff it.

The stuffing is really easy since the only thing you have to cook is some mushrooms. I dice some baby portobello mushrooms and throw them in a pan with some garlic and herbs. You can use other fancy mushrooms here, but they would probably go further in the sauce. I cook mine until the liquid evaporates since you want them to be tender and dry enough to roll up without falling/oozing everywhere but not so much that they turn to complete mush in the oven.

The first layer of the filling is the prosciutto so it can infuse both the chicken and the rest of the stuffing with porky goodness. This recipe doesn't require much of it, especially if you cut it in half for just two people, so I usually go to the deli counter instead of buying a big package of it. The cheese comes next; I like a good mild, melty mozzarella or provolone but if you like stronger cheeses then feel free to swap one in. As long as it melts well, you can use it. A layer of the mushrooms goes next. Just remember that as you roll the chicken, it tends to move out towards the edges, so leave a border, especially on the end that will become the seam.

To finish the chicken, I start at the ugliest, most uneven long side and start rolling it into itself. I secure it with either toothpicks (soaked in water so they don't burn) or butcher's twine then sear it off in a hot pan to get a nice golden crust. Since the thin piece of chicken has now rolled into something much bigger, it will take more time to cook, so I finish it in the oven. All the worst Valentine's Day stories involve food poisoning of some sort, so make sure you cook it properly.

While the chicken cooks, it's time to whip up the sauce. At this point, I've committed to mushrooms, so I decided to make a nice gravy. I take the chicken drippings--minus any cheesy bits--and saute more mushrooms, a shallot, and some herbs until tender and fragrant. This is where you want to use nice mushrooms, if you have them. If not, I used more baby portobellos and it still turned out fantastic. I then build a roux by adding flour; this thickens the gravy so it's perfectly velvety. Chicken broth is gradually stirred in until it forms a sauce, which I then simmer with another pat of butter until the chicken is ready.

Valentine's Day is still over a week away, so there's time to build a menu around this (or another dish, if you're not feeling the mushrooms. Some of my favorite appetizers include some corn & tomato salsa, a decadent French onion tart, and a zucchini ricotta crostada. Some equally fancy main course ideas are chicken Florentine, scallops with purple cauliflower, and spinach and prosciutto stuffed shells. Those would be great alongside some mushroom soup, zucchini fritters, or focaccia. As for dessert, I'll be publishing a recipe later in the week, but you can get started with a buttermilk pie, maple apple spice cake, or a blueberry almond tart. For more recipe ideas, see my recipe index. Happy cooking and happy Valentine's Day!

8 oz Mushrooms, Diced
12 oz Mushrooms, Sliced
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
6 Sprigs Thyme
4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (2 lbs)
8 Slices Prosciutto
8 Slices Mozzarella
4 T Butter
1 Small Shallot, Diced
1/4 Cup Flour
2 Cups Chicken Broth

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced mushrooms, garlic, and 3 sprigs thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6 minutes or until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

Butterfly the chicken breasts. Pound to ~1/4" thick and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Top with two overlapping slices of prosciutto each, 2 slices mozzarella, and some of the mushrooms, leaving a 1/2" border on one of the long ends. Roll lengthwise so the border acts as a seam and secure with kitchen twine or toothpicks. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Heat oven to 425F.

Heat some oil in a new large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear on both sides until brown, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish and roast for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove any melted cheese from the chicken skillet. Add 2 T butter and melt over medium-high heat and add the sliced mushrooms, shallot, and remaining 3 sprigs thyme. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 4-6 minutes or until tender. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth. Simmer until thick and reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 T butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve over the chicken.

Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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