Sunday, February 27, 2011

0 Recipe #246: Pollo alla Milanese con Salsa Cremoso di Primavera (Milanese-Style Chicken in a Creamy, Springtime Sauce)

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In honor of spring, which is fastly approaching (Yay!), I decided to make an Italian-style chicken dish with a bright & colorful sauce reminiscent of the hues of spring. Chicken Milanese, which is basically just tenderized, breaded chicken, is a little bit too plain on its own. Sure, it has a great flavor, but it still needs something a bit more exciting to perk it up & enhance its flavors. Hence, the addition of the sauce. :)

Again, this meal is probably one that I'd categorize as a "splurge dish." While it uses less mascarpone (i.e., 1/4 c.) than the recently posted Farfalle Alfredo con Funghi e Spinaci recipe, & is still relatively lower in fat than most other mascarpone-based recipes you'll find elsewhere, nonetheless, it's not exactly what I'd consider to be a low-fat meal. ;) Yeah, it's relatively low-fat to the previously mentioned recipe, but not in comparison with most of the other recipes on this blog. :) So, I'd recommend saving it for a special occasion or eating it as a once-in-a-blue-moon treat.

There's a great contrast of textures & flavors in this dish. The crisp exterior of the breaded chicken & the slight crunch of the vegetables are balanced out by the creamy flavor & consistency of the sauce. The flavor of the mushrooms go really marvelously with the green pepper & cheesy sauce. (This mushroom-pepper-cheese combination was actually inspired by a favorite pizzeria from home, which offers a pizza with the exact same toppings. :) ) The fresh herbs add an amazing vibrancy to the sauce, while the tomatoes & lemon juice give the dish the necessary tang to complete the meal.


Pollo alla Milanese con Salsa Cremoso di Primavera (Milanese-Style Chicken in a Creamy, Springtime Sauce)

Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. shallots, peeled & finely minced (about 1 large shallot)
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1 large fresh bay leaf
1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 Tbsp. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 c. (or more) dry white wine (I used an Orvieto)
2 c. fresh mushrooms, ends trimmed & sliced 1/4"-thick
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 c. green bell pepper, diced into 1/2" cubes (about 1/2 small pepper) 
1/2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves, densely packed & finely minced
1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. fresh tarragon, densely packed & finely minced
1/2 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves, densely packed & very finely minced
1/2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp. lowfat, nondairy creamer
1/4 c. mascarpone cheese
1/4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, (freshly) shredded
1/16 tsp. (a pinch) ground nutmeg

Chicken Dish Ingredients:
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts, rinsed, defatted, tendons removed, & patted dry
3 Tbsp.  unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 extra large egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. plain bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1/8 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste (optional)

1 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, densely packed & roughly chopped
lemon wedges or slices

Directions: Tenderize the chicken: Remove chicken from fridge 30-45 minutes before you plan to start cooking, so that it reaches room temperature before adding them to the pan, to ensure even cooking. (This will take about 15-30 minutes.) Next, place rinsed, defatted chicken breasts onto a large, clean, non-porous cutting board & cut into 2" wide strips. Cover with plastic wrap & tenderize, pounding with the bumpy, textured end of a meat mallet until flattened 1/8" thick. (If you're buying pre-packaged chicken that's already been precut into 2" pieces, then just place an extra long piece of plastic wrap underneath chicken & then fold over to cover for even easier cleanup. Cutting chicken that's already been placed on top of plastic wrap pretty much defeats the purpose of double-wrapping it. ;) ) Discard plastic wrap & set aside.

Next, make the sauce: Heat (1/2 Tbsp.) olive oil in a large (12-13") sauté pan on medium heat until glistening. Then, reduce heat to low & sauté shallots, garlic, & bay leaf until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Push ingredients to one side of the pan, to make enough room for the roux: Melt butter on the opposite side of the pan & then quickly stir in flour to form a roux. (Stir well until smooth; there shouldn't be any lumps of flour after you've finished stirring.) Immediately deglaze with 1/4 c. white wine, stirring to remove fond (i.e., the brown bits) from the bottom of the pan. Then add mushrooms, season with salt & pepper, and cook until tender, about another 5 minutes. (Add more wine if liquid's volume gets too low during cooking. Liquid should never be allowed to completely evaporate.) Add green peppers & remaining 1/4 c. wine, and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until lightly steamed. (Green pepper should still retain its bright green color & a good bit of its crunch.) Next, add all fresh herbs, cook for another minute, then add tomatoes, & cook for 1 minute more, reducing liquid's volume to a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, stir in creamer, mascarpone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, & nutmeg, mixing throughly to combine. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl & set aside. (Wash out pan first if you'll be using it again to cook the chicken.)

Bread the chicken: Place three large plates & two medium-sized bowls on the counter top. Flour one plate & set aside. In the first bowl, beat together egg & milk, & set aside, placing this bowl to the right of the floured plate. In the second bowl, thoroughly combine bread crumbs, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, & pepper, & then transfer mixture to the second plate, evenly spreading it out across the plate using a spatula. Place the second plate to the right of the bowl filled with the egg mixture. (This "assembly line" layout will make it easier to bread the chicken.) Using heat-proof tongs, flour each piece of chicken on both sides, then dip into egg mixture, shaking off excess, & then dip into bread crumbs mixture, pressing the chicken breasts into the mixture (with your hands, if easier) to adhere & completely coat. Shake off excess bread crumbs & lay each piece onto the third (clean) plate. Repeat this process until all chicken pieces have been breaded.

Cook the chicken: Heat (1 Tbsp.) olive oil in a large (12-13") sauté pan on medium-low heat until glistening. Transfer chicken to the pan, & sauté for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until crispy & golden brown. Watch the pan carefully as tenderized chicken doesn't take very long to cook through & brown. Using heat-proof tongs, transfer to a paper towel covered plate and drain. To serve, divide chicken into two equal portions, transfer to plates, sprinkle with lemon juice (if using), & generously top each portion with sauce. (Alternatively, you can also pour the sauce into a small serving pitcher or bowl & let your guests pour the desired amount of sauce onto the chicken themselves.) Garnish with fresh parsley & lemon wedges/slices, and serve immediately.

Yield: 2 servings.

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