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.

First, We Make Manhattans…

Toss out the toxic red cherries. Home canned Maraschino cherries make the perfect cocktail garnish.

We love cocktails! There’s nothing better than a frosty glass with 2-3 ounces of a shaken potion to celebrate the beginning of the weekend, or just the end of a workday. Bourbon, the sweet brown all American elixir, makes wonderful concoctions that will turn any vodka drinker into a whisky fan after their first sip.

Depending on the origin of the brew, whisky is spelled with or without the “e”  – as in “whisky” or “whiskey.” American whiskey includes that “e” but that isn’t the only difference between it and it’s counterparts across the Atlantic. American whiskies tend to be sweet by Scottish standards. Most are made from a mix of corn, rye and wheat and aged in oak barrels, though the time a particular whiskey spends on oak will vary from bottling to bottling. Of course, there are differences in the malting and distillation processes – the use of peat fired drying kilns and the smoke flavor it imparts to Scottish whisky comes to mind – differences that result in delicate nuances that make one whiskey best served neat, while another one may be mixed to make an ice cold cocktail and served up. While we could go into far more detail about the differences between whisky styles, and the whiskey making process, this post is about cocktails.  More specifically, this post is about our holy trinity of whisky cocktails: Manhattans, Sazaracs, and Rob Roys.

I love a cocktail...


Makes one and can be doubled.

Our favorite bourbons for this cocktail are Bulleit, Woodford’s Reserve, and Maker’s Mark, in that particular order. What makes the best Manhattan, aside from the one of the great bourbons mentioned, is the use of our own homemade maraschino cherries. We no longer buy those toxic red ones – they should be banned! It’s easy enough to make your own with a good bottle of Luxardo’s Maraschino Liqueur and some fresh seasonal cherries. Spring is the perfect time to can a few jars of them to keep year round. All you need to do is pit the cherries, add them to a sterilized mason jar (leaving enough space at the top so it’s not overfilled), pour in the maraschino liqueur and process in a water bath. You can also make a simple jar that will last a month or two in the back of your fridge. Pit the cherries add the maraschino liqueur and refrigerate for a day or two before using.

2 ounces Bourbon

½ ounce Sweet vermouth,

Dash or two Angostura Bitters

Homemade Maraschino cherry

A half hour before making the cocktail put the cocktail glasses in the freezer. Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice. Add the bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Shake gently until the cocktail shaker becomes frosty. Place a maraschino cherry and 1/2 teaspoon of Maraschino liquor in the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass. Strain the drink into the glass and enjoy!


two at the most...

Makes one but can be doubled. If doubling, mix each drink separately.

We love this classic New Orleans cocktail! Our first experience of the drink came at the hands of the masters at Alembic and we’ve been hooked ever since. We regularly use bourbon in our sazerac recipe, but purists will tell you that this is a drink best made from pure rye whiskey. We’ve tried it with Wild Turkey’s 101 proof Straight Rye with great success. We’ve alternately coated the cocktail glass with absinthe and green chartreuse and like them both. The absinthe adds a spicy sweetness to the finished cocktail. The chartreuse is herbaceous and bitter making the cocktail slightly more complex but with a clean finish. The “official” recipe for the sazerac is an historical mystery, but most agree that the original sazerac was a cognac-based cocktail. The absinthe or pastis came later as did the Peychaud’s Bitters most believe to be a necessary ingredient. When you do your research on the sazerac (and we know you will) you’ll find far too many opinions on what is and isn’t the right way to make the drink. Grain of salt, people! Stick to the basics but experiment where you want. For example, we’ve abandoned the Peychaud’s because we don’t like them – they’re artificially colored and they lack complexity – opting instead for good old Angostura bitters. But what do we know?

2 ounces Bourbon or Rye

1 tsp sugar

Several dashes of angostura bitters

A dash of Absinthe or enough to coat the bottom and sides of the cocktail glass without dripping out

Lemon twist

Note: This is a labor intensive cocktail that requires a little planning. It’s worth every second it takes to prepare!

Set serving class in freezer to chill. In a rocks glass, add sugar and bitters and stir until sugar begins to dissolve. Add bourbon or rye and muddle them until the sugar is completely dissolved (this takes time). Remove cocktail glass from freezer and add absinthe, turning glass on its side to coat the bottom and inside of the glass. To the bourbon sugar bitters mixture, add 2 or 3 ice cubes and stir until chilled. Strain into frozen cocktail glasses. Garnish with lemon twist using a citrus zester. Be sure to remove the twist of lemon peel over the surface of the cocktail so that the oils from the zest “spritz” over the top of the drink. Serve!

Rob Roy

after three I'm under the table, and four I'm under the host.

Oh, to mix Scotch with anything other than a little water. Alas, there are several classic Scotch-based cocktails and we’re not entirely averse to pouring some Johnnie Walker Red or Black label over ice and then adulterating it with any number of mixers. With this cocktail you’ll use Scotch whisky and we recommend Johnnie Walker Red, sometimes Black, but never Gold, Green, or Blue, and don’t even think about adulterating a single malt Scotch with vermouth and bitters! If God doesn’t strike you down for such a grave transgression, a Scotsman surely will! Traditionally, the Rob Roy is served “sweet” hence the use of sweet vermouth. But the cocktail may be made “dry” by substituting dry vermouth for the sweet. The “perfect” Rob Roy uses equal parts of both!

2 ounces Johnny Walker Red or Black Label Blended Scotch

1 ounce Sweet (or Dry) Vermouth (half an ounce of each for a “perfect” Rob Roy)

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Add ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake until the shaker turns icy. Serve up in a cocktail glass with a cherry (or lemon twist if using dry vermouth).

Cheers, Jason and Steve -hic