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.

Two Fungi

Grow your own mushrooms

A couple months ago at a holiday party we were introduced to the Mushroom guys from Back to the Roots, Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora. These two guys are affecting the food world in radical ways by selling home grown mushroom kits. One of the many great things about these kits is that they are made out of a resource that would otherwise be waste, used Peets’ Coffee grounds. These guys are recycling a material that Peets’ Coffee paid a waste disposal company to haul to the landfill. The spent coffee grounds are sterilized inoculated with oyster mushroom spoors and packaged in recycled paper. Home growers grow the mushrooms in the packaging and then compost the remainder when all is done.

Growing mushrooms just takes water and time.

Perhaps a little of the coffee has seeped into the mushrooms because these guys are extremely pumped about their product, and they should be. The guys have been featured Ted talk speakers, and the mushroom kits are this year’s unique and creative Valentine’s gift by the Huffington Post. We were delighted to find the mushroom growing kits at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and learned from the guys that the kits are also available at a variety of Whole Foods throughout the U.S. They will happily send a kit out to the teacher of your choosing if you post a picture of your kit, showing a cluster of growing mushrooms, on their Facebook page. How cool is that? With our kit, we managed to grow a beautiful cluster of delicious mushrooms in just a couple of weeks. We’re now working on “side two” and hope to have a second crop soon.

Growing mushrooms at home may seem like a novelty, but we take a lot of satisfaction in knowing we had a hand in growing the food on our table, however light the touch. Your kids (or the inner kid in all of us) will have a blast with this food growing “experiment” and we’re willing to bet they’ll love eating the results too. At the very least, they’ll come away from it with a better sense of how food comes to the table. Once the fungi have fully matured there are so many great recipes to use them in. Our choice is to make it as simple as possible.

An easy, but not-so-quick, mushroom and eggs.

Dry Fried Oyster Mushrooms with Soft Scramble Eggs

4 oz. fresh oyster mushrooms, shredded
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 eggs
2 pieces homemade (or artisanal) bread, toasted
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. In a medium non-stick skillet, over medium heat add the shredded mushrooms and toss in pan. Dry fry the mushroom until slightly browned about 5 minutes, add the thyme and fry for about 20-30 seconds or until the thyme is fragrant place in a small bowl, and set aside in the oven to keep warm.

In the same skillet used to dry fry the mushrooms, heat the butter until it has melted or the olive oil until it is just hot. The pan should be maintained at a very low heat.

Crack open the eggs and add them to a medium-sized bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Beat with a silicon whisk. Add the eggs to the skillet and continue to beat with the whisk over very low heat. As you cook and whisk the eggs, pay close attention to the curds. If you notice curds forming, take the pan off the heat and whisk furiously. This process is a labor of love; the longer you cook them over very low heat whisking them the better they are. Cook for 15-30 minutes. A small, soft curd of eggs is the texture you are looking for.

Place the toasted bread on each plate, add the soft scrambled eggs, and top with the oyster mushrooms. Scatter the chopped chives on top of the mushrooms and serve.