One of my favorite dishes to prepare during my restaurant days was a Chicken Saltimbocca, it contained different components that came together in a symphony of flavors that truly did “jump in your Mouth”, at least according to the literal translation!
Today I begin a new segment for my blog, In my Restaurant Kitchen. I like to think of this as a different aspect of Ask Chef Dennis, this segment leaning more towards the culinary side of blogging. I have been deluged with technical data and the truth of the matter is sometimes it just gives me a headache………sigh
In this segment I will discuss culinary techniques, recipes and tips on how to work with the ingredients you have on hand, and how to get more out of them.
Today were going to talk about chicken and it’s versatility. When I first started in the industry many years ago, Veal was king in the Italian restaurant, and the many dishes I prepared with it, saw the transformation into the same dish prepared with chicken. The substitution was seamless in almost all instances, and of course was less expensive than veal, which was a good thing for the consumer. Even today chicken is one of the best values in the meat department.
Now this brings me to a question I always have, as a chef and a manager, I have always done the purchasing where I work, and while some items I buy can be found cheaper in Supermarkets, there are two items that I buy that just make me cringe when I see the prices. One is just about anything you buy in the deli (which I can almost understand because of waste) and the other is Chicken breasts. I buy fresh chicken breasts for school, and they normally run me $1.49 -$1.99 a pound, yet when I buy them at the supermarket, they price gets inflated to $4.99-$5.99 per pound, the mark up on chicken breasts is mind boggling. And let’s not even think about organic free range chicken, the prices are substantially higher!
But now friends we have an option, most supermarkets have started selling many different items in what they call club packs. This seems to be there attempt to regain sales loss to wholesale clubs, and can offer great savings. Chicken breasts once again become economical when purchases this way. Now granted that can be a lot of chicken, especially if there are only two of you, but thinking outside the box and more importantly working your ingredients to your advantage, will make your dishes a hit without having you run around town, or spend more money on exotic ingredients. Over the next few weeks we’ll talk more about your options and how I would go about creating specials in my restaurant. When I make meals at home, I don’t think in terms of home cooking, I always think in terms of menu items that I would serve to paying customers (Lisa is very happy with this philosophy!)
Now some meals are planned out ahead of time, with specific ingredients in mind. Other times I open the refrigerator and look around, hoping to find something I forgot I bought (since I do all the shopping its rare that I’m surprised), then I look in my pantry (OMG where did all that stuff come from), then I decide what would work together to make a tasty creative meal. The secret of my success in restaurants has always been my ability to make many different types of meals using the same ingredients. Ninety percent of my Mise en Place (everything in its place) always contained the same prepped ingredients, with some variations for specials. This is where blending and pairing of ingredients come into play, and this is the secret to preparing meals without breaking the bank.
Some of the ingredients we use in restaurants have very specific purposes, while others are fillers used to bulk up a dish without bulking up the cost. Mushrooms have always been a favorite of mine for this purpose, and or course pasta, rice or grains take up a lot of room on the plate and can a meal much more enticing.
For my first entry into My Restaurant Kitchen I’m making one of my favorites chicken saltimbocca, it was always one of my more popular dishes, no matter where I worked. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 2 slices of proscuitto
- 3 oz. fontina cheese shredded
- 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
- 6 oz cello pack of baby spinach
- 6 oz sweet marsala
- 6 ounces chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. flour
- splash of heavy cream or half and half
- pinch of ground sage
- pinch of black pepper
- Olive oil to saute spinach and chicken
- pound chicken breasts with the flat side of a meat hammer
- dredge chicken breasts in flour seasoned with salt and pepper
- place floured breasts in a large saute pan with enough olive oil to saute chicken breasts.
- Cook chicken 3 minutes on each side and remove from the pan.
- add a little more olive oil to the pan and add in the sliced mushrooms and saute until soft
- Add all but 2 ounces of marsala wine wine to pan to deglaze the pan, allow alcohol to cook off for a minute then add the chicken stock, pinch of sage, pinch of black pepper and place chicken breasts back into the pan.
- reduce heat and continue to cook while sauce is reducing.
- once sauce has started to reduce add in cream and mix well.
- Take the butter and coat it in flour pressing flour into the butter and add to the sauce (this is called a beurre manie) it will thicken the sauce and the butter will impart a rich flavor
- as the sauce begins to thicken remove from the heat.
- Place chicken breast in a baking dish and top with a slice of proscuitto and the shredded fontina cheese
- Place in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted
- In another saute pan add in a little olive oil and the baby spinach, saute until completely cooked and set aside (make sure you drain off any extra oil)
- -3 minutes before the chicken breasts are done, start to slowly reheat the marsala sauce and spinach.
- At this time add in the remaining Marsala wine
- On a serving platter or individual plates set up the dish
- Sauteed spinach, chicken breast then top with mushrooms and marsala sauce
- serve with rice or a grain of your choice.
* sweet marsala will have a nuttier flavor and makes a much better sauce, everyone will tell you to use dry, I never have. Pellingrino is the best Marsala if you can find it.
*reserving some of the marsala until the final minutes before serving will enhance the flavors by allowing the marsala flavor to be more prominent in the dish
Thanks for stopping by today for the first installment of In My Restaurant Kitchen, I hope you enjoyed the recipe and the tips. Please do try the saltimbocca, its a classic dish that you just don’t see very often anymore, but I guarantee it will turn just another night into a special occasion!
Have a happy week my friends, do get out and enjoy the weather as we count down to Labor day!
Till next time!