How about Polla alla Bolognese which is Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Bel Paese Cheese as prepared by Clancy Marshall, heroine and chef extraordinaire from my new release MASQUERADE. Add a Caesar or tossed salad, fresh Italian bread, and chilled Pinot Grigio for a perfect meal.
Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Bel Paese Cheese
4 boneless chicken breasts
freshly ground pepper to taste flour
3 tbsp. butter plus 4 tbsp. for the mushrooms
2 tbsp. olive oil
8 thin 2-by-4-inch slices prosciutto
8 thin 2-by-4-inch slices Fontina or Bel Paese cheese
4 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. chicken stock
8 oz. Baby Bella mushrooms sliced thick
1 tbsp. dried sage
Preheat the oven to 350˚
Slice each breast horizontally in half. Lay the pieces on wax paper about an inch apart and cover with another sheet of wax paper. Pound the slices with the flat of a cleaver or bottom of a heavy bottle to flatten a bit. Be careful not to tear them.
Season the slices with pepper, then dip them in flour. Shake off the excess.
In a heavy 12-inch skillet, melt three tbsp. butter with the oil over moderate heat. Brown the chicken to a light golden color in the hot fat in batches. Do not overcook them.
Transfer the breasts to a shallow buttered baking dish large enough to hold them comfortably or use two dishes. Place a slice of prosciutto and a slice of cheese on each one. Sprinkle with grated cheese and dribble the stock over them. Set dish aside while you prepare the mushrooms.
In the same skillet, melt the 4 tbsp. of butter. When the foam subsides, add the mushrooms and sage. Stirring constantly, saute until mushrooms are well coated, but still firm. Do not cook until soft.
Spoon the mushrooms on top of the chicken slices. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve immediately.
“Buongiorno, Vittore, Signora.” Chef greeted them amid of clatter of dishwashers and sous chef orders to the line and prep cooks. His tall, pleated hat sat like a loose crown on his head, waggling with each word. “Allow me to show you my workplace.”
“Grazie, I appreciate this. Back home, the kitchen was once my life so I’m excited to see how another professional runs his team.”
Vittore tipped his head as if he wanted to hear her every word.
“Tonight’s dinner feature is Polla alla Bolognese.” He led them across the tiled floor toward the butcher. “Are you familiar with this dish?”
“Yes. Chicken with prosciutto and Bel Paese cheese is one of my favorite to prepare.”
His eyebrow shot to his hairline. “It is a complicated recipe, Signora, are you sure we are discussing the same dish?”
Her rubber soles screeched to a halt. Rumor had it European chefs were not pleased with females infiltrating their elite field. It seemed their general belief was women belonged in the kitchen, as long as it was their house kitchen. Clancy was about to set this snob straight.
Vittore coughed and she shot him a glare. He raised his hands, palms out, in surrender.
From the corner of her eye, Clancy saw a slender blonde woman sheathed in black knit that molded every curve. She waggled her fingers until Vittore looked her way.
“Scusi,” he barely got out before he rushed off.
Between Chef, with his sexist attitude, and Vittore, bounding away like a dog in heat, Clancy saw red and someone had to pay.
“Chef, so we’re on the same page here, I hold a BPS, Bachelor of Professional Studies from the Culinary Institute of Art, Culinary Arts, which I earned in less than four years. I also hold an MA, Masters in Arts in Gastronomy, from Le Cordon Bleu Chicago. I have worked every level of the kitchen from commis up to, and including, head chef.” She inhaled a deep breath and forced herself to continue, even if it did break her heart. “I have also owned my own catering company. So yes, I think I do know how to prepare and serve a complicated recipe.”
No one, especially not some uptight chauvinist, was going to talk down to her on the only thing in the world she did with great success.
“I stand corrected, Signora. It is not often Con, er, Signore Vittore brings, ah,…Oh, this is not going well at all.” Red faced, hands twisted into a knot, the poor man slouched and shook his head. His hat slid from left to right and back, gaining speed, until Clancy was positive it would fly into the soup pot.
“How about we start all over again?” She shot him a huge grin and her hand. “Hi, I’m Clancy Marshall, and really happy to meet you, Chef Armando.”
He clasped his smooth hands around hers. “Grazie, Signora Clancy. I return the sentiment.”
“Now, about that recipe we were discussing. A lovely taste enhancer is fresh sage and finely chopped bella mushrooms cooked in the stock before it’s laced over the breasts. One chef I know adds spinach, but I find that too bitter for the delicate flavor of the dish. Wouldn’t you?”
“Por favore, Signora, explain how you make the inclusion of the sage and bellas?” He steered her toward the Chef’s table at the side of the kitchen. “Are they diced together? What exactly do you do?”
He pulled out a chair, then motioned for her to be seated. A thrill raced through her. Chef had accepted her. As in all professional kitchen’s, only select people were invited to sit at the coveted table.
“Simple. Use the whole sage leaf. It’s easier to pick out before serving. The mushrooms are sautéed in a little unsalted butter before heating into the stock. I’m sure your guests will enjoy it. I’ve done the same with veal and had great success.”
“Grazie, I appreciate this.” He tapped the pen against his notepad. “Giovani, avanti.” Chef motioned for a younger chef to come to the table, then handed him the paper. “For tonight, make these additions for half the plates. The others prepare as usual.”
Chef looked at Clancy and shrugged. “A test is always best before the book is altered.”
To read more from MASQUERADE, please click HERE.
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