My good friend called to say he would be in town and asked enthusiastically “what can we cook for dinner on Friday?” That statement brought us to last night – an evening more fun than any of us have had in a long time – it is hard to say exactly who had the most enjoyable time…..my friend’s soon to be 90-year-old mother or my soon to be 10-year-old daughter? We didn’t really plan the menu and didn’t give a thought as to whether what we were cooking would compliment each other’s dishes. He arrived in a flurry with bags, condiments, even his own special saute pan. We all had drinks and started to cook. I was excited about the little chicken breasts that myself and my daughter were layering with pancetta and sage leaves and tieing into neat bundles and my taste buds were peaked when I heard the rustle of oyster shells. Even if you wince at the thought of eating a raw oyster (I have the opposite sensation) you have to admit, a platter of icy oysters with lemon wedges absolutely bristles of old world elegance and sophistication!! So…..we started with raw oysters and ending with a Cup Cake Pyre (more about this later – it deserves its own post!)
We put cooking on hold while we all stood around tasting oysters. My children had never tried this delicacy before so my friend watched them with a mixture of excitement and part resignation that their young palates may just say :”Yuck!” We were a little disappointed when they closed their eyes in a moment of bliss, as now we would have to fight for our greedy share! Their reaction inspired my friend’s mother to try one even though she had announced that she did not like them. This was indeed a great start to the evening. On to the main course!
Chicken parcels: 2 lbs thinly sliced chicken breast (I bought this already sliced – they offer it this way in most supermarkets), 1 lb white or button mushrooms, 1 shallot, big bunch of sage leaves, 40z pancetta or prosciutto, 3 tb unsalted butter, 2tb extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup chopped flat leafed parsley (optional), 1 cup white wine, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup chick broth, 1 lb ziti pasta (penne would also work) 1 cup reserved pasta water (may not need all of it), freshly ground black pepper. Butcher string (kitchen string).
Chop shallot finely and slice mushrooms and set aside. wash sage leaves and put leaves off of stem and reserve in a bowl. The prosciutto or pancetta will probably come in the round, slice in half or thirds if it is a large size. cut chicken in half across the middle. Put a chopping board on your counter for assembly line work.
first put some chicken on the board, then cured meat and top with a sage leaf. roll and tie with string – some needed to pieces to secure.
Put big saute pan on stove-top on medium heat and add 1 tb of butter and oil. add 1 layer of chicken and cook turning once for 3 or 4 minutes. Take odd pan and repeat with next batch, adding more oil and butter as needed.
When chicken is finished searing, add shallots and cook for 1 minute before adding the mushrooms. Let them cook until getting brown (about 7 or 8 minutes). turn up pan to high heat and add the wine and let it bubble for 2 minutes.
Add cream and broth and turn pan down to low. Add chicken to pan, cover and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Test one by taking out of pan and cutting down the middle. If it is white and very moist, it is ready. Do not over cook or they will be dry. I made that mistake on my first batch by leaving them in to sear for too long and they dried out a bit. That’s what happens when you have a friend in the kitchen and a bottle of vodka to distract you (at least that’s my excuse!). While chicken is simmering put big pot of water on to boil for ziti. Cook ziti according to instructions. Before draining scoop out 1 cup of pasta water for use in the sauce. Drain in colander and pour directly into chicken – Do Not Rinse Pasta With Cold Water! Stir into chicken and sauce and add about a 1/2 cup of the pasta water. If you like the consistency then don’t add the rest of the water (but keep just in case later on you might need to loosen everything up a bit)
Add the chopped parsley and mix into pot along with a good grind of pepper. I did not add salt to this dish as the cured meat had enough salt to season the sauce very well.
Serve with the Radicchio Apple salad and the Potato Celeriac pancake. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if desired (I desired!)
Will post the salad and my friend’s pancake separately! Look for it tomorrow….