Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chicken saltimbocca with pesto pasta and sauteed kale

This is a great weeknight meal. Very quick and satisfying, but with a little touch of fancy too. It's another great find from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook series "Food Made Fast", specifically, "Simple Suppers". I highly recommend the series.

You could stuff your chicken breasts with any kind of melty cheese and salty ham you happen to like or have kicking around the fridge, although the original recipe calls for fontina and prosciutto or boiled ham. This time I used a delicately smoked Italian caciocavallo cheese with prosciutto. Twas lovely. It also calls for fresh sage but dried works just fine, particularly when it's 13 degrees outside and your garden is an ice skating rink.

And I paired it with some simple spaghetti and kale. Easy peasy.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded until they're of uniform thickness
sprinkle of dried sage
4 slices prosciutto
few thin slices caciocavallo
1 shallot or 1/4 a red onion, minced
1/4 cup sherry
juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 bunch kale, tough ribs removed and leaves roughly chopped
~2 tbsp bacon, finely diced (I keep small portions of bacon in the freezer so I can just shave a little bit off when I need it as a seasoning)

4 oz dried pasta
2 tbsp pesto (homemade is obviously best - I picked my basil plants clean at the end of the summer and froze a big batch of it in single-use Ziploc baggies)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put a pot of water on to boil and get your pasta cooking.

Pound out your chicken and season on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. I put the chicken breast into a large Ziploc bag, leaving it unsealed, and pound it with the smooth side of this guy, but smacking with a rolling pin works too. I've even used a coffee mug in a pinch. Anything you can whack it with. Anyway, sprinkle the back side of the breast with sage, then layer on the prosciutto and cheese and roll it up, using toothpicks to secure (I use like six toothpicks per roll, see the picture above - no harm in using too many). Try to keep the cheese tucked in. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and begin to brown the chicken rolls, turning them every minute or two so they sear nicely on all sides. Then pop the pan in the oven for another 8 or 10 minutes. It's kinda hard to tell when these are done and with chicken you have to err on the side of overcooking slightly, but mine were perfectly done after 8 minutes. They should feel firm to the touch and the cheese should attempting escape.

While the chicken is in the oven, sautee your bacon in a large nonstick skillet. Once it's crispy and has rendered its lovely fat into the pan, add the kale along with a pinch of kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. I like to leave a little bit of water on the kale after I wash it to help it wilt in the pan. Saute until dark green and wilted down, 4 or 5 minutes.

Drain your pasta and stir the pesto through.

When the chicken is done, place it on the plates along with some pasta and kale. To the chicken pan, add your shallot or red onion and stir around, bringing up the browned bits from the bottom. Once it's softened (after just a minute or so), add the sherry and lemon juice and allow to reduce another minute. Pour the sauce over the chicken aaaaand consume. Don't forget to remove the toothpicks!

Serves 2, takes half an hour.

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