Chicken Involtini Part III: Wild Mushroom & Whisky

Wow! Has it really been a year since our Chicken Involtini experiment? We did so well getting the first two recipes up, Chicken Involtini Part I (Apple & Bacon) & Part II (Collards, Feta & Bacon), our most popular blog posts to date, thanks to Foodpress and WordPress. One would think that with the fame and popularity of the earlier posts, we would be blogging about stuffed chicken on a daily basis, at the very least the much promised involtini part III would have gone up right away. Alas, other food obsessions stole our attention and Steve waited and waited to get his version of involtini written up and then time got away from him. We figure since we’re growing mushrooms and our last post was all about that experiment, now might be a good time to revisit this unusual preparation for chicken and mushrooms. It’s also our 150th blog post – a major accomplishment even if it has taken us 3 years to reach this goal.

Butterflying the chicken breast.

The idea here was to produce a boneless, skinless breast that was flavorful and moist. Seasoning bland chicken breast is rarely an issue for the home cook. The challenge is cooking the meat through without drying it out. Most of us fail most of the time.

We took a slow poach approach to this one, simmering the stuffed breast in a broth seasoned with mushroom, rosemary and whisky. The woodsy flavors of dry mushroom, resinous rosemary and smoky whisky made for an interesting dish. While the technique looks to be a bit fussy, it wasn’t at all difficult. You just need to take the time to rehydrate the dry wild mushrooms. Everything else comes together quickly.

Poached Chicken Involtini w/ Wild Mushroom Stuffing

1 package dry Santini mixed wild mushrooms (25g)

Poaching Liquid:
4 cups water
2 cups veggie broth
6-8 fresh button or Crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/8 cup Johnny Walker Black Label, Scotch Whisky
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste

The poaching liquid

2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 oz parma cheese, shredded
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
olive oil
Salt & pepper

Place dry mushrooms in a medium bowl. Pour two cups boiling water over the dry mushrooms. Set aside to rehydrate, about 10 minutes. Note: the strained water will be added to the poaching liquid.

In a large saucepan over high heat add the water, veggie broth, and whisky, along with the sprig of rosemary, sliced mushrooms, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the broth with salt to taste. Keep the broth at a low simmer while preparing the chicken breasts.

Whiskey; the secret ingredient.

Preparing the chicken:

Carefully butterfly the chicken breasts by cutting through the center of each as if you were opening a book. Do not cut all the way through. Open the breast and place between two sheets of plastic. Using the flat end of a meat tenderizer or the flat bottom of a small sauté pan, gently, but firmly, pound the chicken breast between the plastic making sure to pull the mallet away from the center toward the edges of the cutlet. Pound each breast until about ¼ to 1/8 inch thick. Season the inner part of the breast with salt and pepper.

Mushroom filling.

Preparing the mushroom stuffing:

Drain rehydrated wild mushrooms, adding the liquid to the poaching broth (do not add the grit at the bottom of the bowl). In the bowl of a food processor, add the rehydrated mushrooms, cheese, shallot, breadcrumbs, rosemary, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pulse until finely chopped, being careful not to over process. The stuffing can become gummy if ground to a paste.

Spread the mushroom stuffing mixture over one side of flattened chicken breast and roll, being careful not to let the stuffing fall out of the ends of the roll. Place rolled chicken breast on a double layer of cheesecloth and wrap tightly. Tie ends off with kitchen twine.

Lower chicken breasts into the poaching liquid until fully submersed. Simmer involtini until fully cooked, about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not boil. The breasts should cook slowly in the poaching liquid.

Remove involtini and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. Remove cheesecloth and slice into 1 inch thick slices. Serve with a large dollop of mashed potatoes and a couple of tablespoons of the poaching liquid.

For an Asian inspired soup; substitute the salt in the poaching liquid with soy sauce. Prepare a package of soba noodles as directed splitting the portion between bowls. Add a couple of handfuls of baby spinach and ladle the poaching broth into the bowl. Place slices of involtini in the bowls and top with chopped scallions or chives.

A Thanksgiving Dinner (without the cans)

When writing about T-day feasts, food writers like us have a quandary; do we make a separate feast weeks before and pretend it’s our Thanksgiving Day meal or do we have our meal on the fourth Thursday of November and write about it a year later? We chose to do the latter. The dinner we write about here is from 2010. It was just the two of us and from our notes last year, we were on a processed food kick. Meaning, we wanted to kick processed food out of Thanksgiving all together, and everyday of the year. To our family members: we will be home for Christmas and will be respectful of your food choices. Our goal with our blog is to be happy and healthy, to share our recipes, and to foster a dialogue about all of our food choices – not to pass judgment. Enjoy our little tirade and try out some of our simple recipes at the bottom of the post. We’re sure you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.

Forget about the hormone injected turkey and the Stovetop stuffing. We don’t need the boxed mashed potatoes, canned green bean casserole with fried onion rings, or the gooey sweet potatoes topped with multi-colored marshmallows. And please do not serve another jell-o salad with canned diced pineapple and cottage cheese.  This is the same menu our families have been preparing every year for Thanksgiving since we were kids and even before. And we’re sure we’re not the only ones in America who had to eat the exact same menu every turkey day. It’s not that we don’t like these things when they’re made from scratch, but when the definition of scratch means opening up cans of one thing and dumping it into a casserole dish with a packet of this and another can of that – well, we find it just plain wrong. The food the pilgrims ate did not come from cans, packets, or boxes, so why do Americans believe that by eating this processed food we are honoring our American ancestral settlers?

We’re sure we’ve already offended over half the family for our blatant rant against this so-called food. Of course, if the choice is to either eat processed food on a visit with family or not go home for Thanksgiving, we’ll choose to visit with family and eat what is available without a disrespectful word , but why must these be our mutually exclusive choices? Why not choose to prepare items from their most natural state first before grabbing the can opener, or the box? Is it really that much harder to peel some potatoes, put them in a pot of boiling water until tender, drain them and then mash all together with butter, milk, salt & pepper? A box of instant mashed potatoes requires some measurement. Why not measure one or two more things and prepare something truly wonderful, something real?

We know that we are all busy this year (when aren’t we?) and times are tough all around. We want to save time to be with our families, but also save some money. This Thanksgiving, we propose that instead of going for the convenience of the box, we learn to think outside of it. For starters, let’s pledge to only shop the perimeter of the grocery store, leaving the middle lanes alone, and if possible just the vegetable section. When selecting a Turkey, think local, think fresh and think organic. When making the stuffing, try using bread from a real bakery – it makes for a fine first step.  Try sautéing some green beans in brown butter and serving both sweet potatoes and russet potatoes mashed separately. No need to add tons of brown sugar and a bag of mini marshmallow to make the sweet tubers edible. Nicely roasted sweet potatoes with a good dash of sea salt and a healthy dollop of sweet, unsalted butter need little more. And, let’s forget about the jell-o salad altogether. Why not try something bold like a nice radicchio and apple salad with warm apple cider vinaigrette, topped with a crumble of bleu cheese and a few pine nuts?

Yes, you can use canned pumpkin and we also used the recipe on the back of the can. The crust, however, was made from scratch and yes, it did burn.

Whatever your Thanksgiving menu will be, there’s one thing that even we agree should come out of a can. No, it’s not cranberries. It’s canned pumpkin. We’re all for picking up a sugar pumpkin and roasting it, but if you’ve already made everything else from scratch, give yourself a break. The pie crust, however, should not come from the freezer section of a supermarket. If you haven’t made a crust before, now is the best time to learn.

As for those cranberries, anyone who buys canned cranberry sauce and prefers it to fresh cranberries needs to learn a quick and easy recipe for home cooked sauce. It takes a whole five minutes to throw a bag of fresh cranberries into a pan with a little sugar, or honey, some cinnamon, a little citrus peel and some water. Crank up the heat until it bubbles, cook for 5 minutes and then let cool. That’s it!

Martha Stewart–the ultimate diva of all things domestic – and others – have videos and recipes galore for any training you may need. During the holidays your family members are going to appreciate the effort even more, so give “homemade” a try. Not only will you be amazed by how great everything tastes, you’ll also appreciate that the food you’re eating is healthier for you, and that should give you another reason to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Steve and Jason

Why roast when braising keeps the breast moist?

Wine Braised Turkey Breast
Serves 8-10
From cookbook author John Phillip Carroll

Active cooking time: 30 minutes

Total cooking time: 3 hours

1 whole turkey breast, skin on (about 6 pounds)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, mashed
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
3 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup heavy cream

Season turkey with salt and pepper. Heat oil over moderate heat in a Dutch oven. Add turkey skin-side down and brown in hot oil, about 5-6 minutes. Remove turkey, leaving fat in pan.

Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to pan and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Add the stock and wine and bring to a boil. Return turkey to pan, cover and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until a meat thermometer registers 170° when inserted in the thickest part of the turkey. Turn the turkey 2 or 3 times during cooking, and make sure the liquid is just gently bubbling. Remove pan from heat and set aside about 20 minutes, with the cover askew (turkey should be skin side down in the cooking liquid).

Remove turkey to a platter and keep it warm. Strain the cooking liquid; you will have about 3 1/2 cups. Rapidly boil it down to about 2 1/2 cups to concentrate the flavor.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and blend with flour until smooth. Add to the reduced liquid, whisking constantly until blended, then add the cream and simmer for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the turkey.

Radicchio & Apple Salad with Prosciutto
4-6 Servings

Bitter greens (reds) never tasted so sweet.

2 small heads radicchio, torn into bite sized pieces
1 medium sweet apple, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2-3 thin slices of Prosciutto
1-2 tablespoons blue cheese crumbled
Salt & pepper

In a large salad bowl, add the radicchio and apples. In a small sauté pan, add the olive oil and pine nuts. Toasted until lightly brown then pour into the salad bowl and toss the radicchio and apples with the heated oil and nuts. Drizzle the apple cider vinegar over the salad and toss a little more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the salad among the plates and add torn strips of prosciutto to each one. Top with crumbled bits of blue cheese and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potato Puree
4-6 Servings

Leave the marshmallows for the hot chocolate.

3-4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1-2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
¼ cup milk
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes multiple times with a fork. Place in the oven on a baking sheet for 45-60 or until a knife can easily be inserted into the center of the potatoes. Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Heat the milk and butter, or olive oil, in a small saucepan. Once the taters are cool, peel the skin using a small knife. Place the peeled sweet potatoes in a bowl and mash with a potato masher for a rough rustic consistency, or use a hand held beater for a smoother consistency. Slowly add the milk mixture until the potatoes are the texture you desire. You may not use all the milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. The potatoes can be made ahead and kept warm in a low temperature (200 degrees) oven until ready to serve.

Smashed Red Potatoes
4-6 Servings

Lumpy or smooth?

8-10 small organic red potatoes (or 4-5 large ones)
1 Bay leaf
½ cup whole Milk
2-3 tablespoons Butter
Salt & pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cut out any black eyes or green tint. Place them in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Add the bay leaf and a large pinch of salt to the water. Place on the stove and heat over medium high until they come to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes, longer for larger potatoes, or until a knife can easily be inserted into the spuds. Drain the water off of the potatoes, discard the bay leaf and leave the potatoes in the pan, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes or until the pan and potatoes are dry.

Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press each potato against the side of the pan and smash them. Once all the potatoes are smashed, stir in the milk mixture and continue to stir until you have the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. The potatoes can be made ahead and kept warm in a low temperature (200 degrees) oven until ready to serve.

Note: for richer Smashed Potatoes add a tablespoon, or two, of cream cheese when heating the milk mixture.

Sautéed Green Beans
4-6 Servings

Green beans from a can, never again.

½ pound Fresh Green Beans, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons Butter or olive oil
1 small minced shallot
Salt & pepper
Optional: 1/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.)

Fill a large pot with water, add a large pinch of salt, and place on the stove over high heat until it boils. While the pot is coming to a boil, fill a large bowl with ice and water. When the water in the pot is boiling, add the green beans and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the beans from the water and immediately plunge them into the ice water to “shock” them and stop the cooking. They will retain their green color. At this point, you can set them aside, or refrigerate up to 1 day, to be finished just minutes before serving.

When ready to serve, in a large sauté pan, heat the butter or olive oil over medium high heat until the butter has melted and the foam has subsided or when the oil is glistening. Add the shallot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the green beans and nuts, if using, sauté for 3-5 minutes tossing them to evenly cook. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Cranberry Sauce
4-6 Servings

So simple even a child can make this (with supervision).

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
½ cup water
½ cup sugar or honey
Small pinch of salt

Optional: 1-2” citrus peel (lemon, lime or orange), small handful dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, and even cranberries), small handful toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, pistachios, etc.)

In a medium saucepan add the cranberries, water, sugar or honey, and salt (if using citrus peel or dried fruit add them now) and place on the stove over medium high heat. Bring the cranberry mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.  If using nuts add them to the cranberry sauce. Refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.