Speck-Wrapped Chicken Breast with Balsamic Mushroom Sauce
For an extravagant weekend (see here) I sometimes like to make an extravagant meal. I’ve made variations of this dish in the past, but none of them have ever turned out as well as they did this time. Any of the courses are certainly optional, but I find that the starchy freshness of the Brussels sprout-fennel combination helps to cut through the richness of the chicken dish. If rice isn’t your thing, feel free to swap in some roasted fingerling or Yukon gold potatoes.
Regarding some ingredient choices, we have the luxury of having an amazing nearby produce and meat market called Russo’s, which has an excellent selection of obscure produce. Elysabeth, Seth, and I shopped there this past weekend, where we came across some beautiful haricot vert, crimini mushrooms, fresh tarragon, and Italian speck ham. The speck is sliced into narrow slices, such that I used three to wrap one of the pieces of chicken. If your ham is not as narrowly sliced or you do not want as much on your chicken, adjust accordingly from the recipe.
The sauce for the chicken looks a bit complex, but it’s really just done in distinct phases (sear chicken, build aromatics, start roux, thicken and simmer sauce) which help to build a few layers of flavor. Just remember to work slowly so the sauce thickens well without any lumps or burning. The final product is definitely not the most photogenic dish because the sauce is not quite “beautiful”, but the flavors are untouchable. The chicken and sauce recipe will follow the recipes for the two sides.
Rice (Serves 4-5):
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp. mustard powder
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. onion powder
- 1/2 lb. haricot vert or other green bean, ends snapped and cut into 2 in. pieces
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 cup brown rice
- water, as directed by rice packaging, about 1 1/2 cup
- Combine first 6 ingredients and set aside while boiling water for the rice.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions for rice preparation and add dry spice mix right before the covering and simmering stage.
- While rice cooks, lightly saute the carrots for about 10 minutes, then add the green beans and cook another 5 minutes, or until the carrot is just tender. Season vegetables with a little salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- When rice has about 5 minutes remaining, add the carrots and beans to the pot and finish the rice as usual.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel (Serves 4):
- 1 lb Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed off, sliced in half
- 1 small bulb fennel with top, cored, sliced thinly
- 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled, sliced in half
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Arrange sprouts and fennel on large oven pan, drizzle with the oil, and season liberally with several pinches of kosher salt and black pepper. Leave some of the sprouts flat on the pan, and leave some of them facing upwards. Place garlic slices evenly around the pan, cut side up.
- Bake for approximately 13-15 minutes or until sprouts show a healthy brown color, giving pan one good shake during baking.
- Remove from oven and transfer into serving dish, adjusting seasoning if necessary.
Speck-Wrapped Chicken Breast with Balsamic Mushroom Sauce (Serves 4):
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, sliced in half horizontally, or 8 thin-sliced boneless skinless chicken cutlets
- 24 thin slices Italian speck or prosciutto di Parma (about 1/2 lb)
- 1 lb mushrooms (crimini, baby bella) cleaned and sliced
- 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, ends trimmed, halved, sliced thinly and separated
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 2 tbsp. garlic, finely minced (about 2 large or 3 medium cloves)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp. sherry or other wine
- 2 cups chicken stock or broth, boiling
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 tbsp. mustard powder
- 2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
- cooking spray
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in medium frying pan over medium heat, and add onions and mushrooms. Stir occasionally until mushrooms shrink in size, and reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally while preparing the chicken and sauce so that mushrooms and onions brown and caramelize evenly.
- Lay chicken out on plastic surface, coat with cooking spray and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
- For each piece of chicken, lay 3 slices of speck next to each other and place chicken on top. Wrap speck around chicken, leaving a small amount (1/4 – 1/2 in.) of uncovered chicken sticking out on either side.
- Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in large saute pan or wide sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces 2-3 at a time, working in batches. Cook chicken for 2-3 minutes a side or until ham is crispy, transfer to board and cover loosely with foil. If necessary, add more oil between batches. Chicken will not be fully cooked at this stage.
- Once chicken is seared off, turn pan down to medium-low and remove from heat for a few minutes. If pan is dry, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Once pan has cooled down, add shallot and garlic and lightly saute until shallot has softened. Do not let the garlic burn.
- Add butter to pan and bring heat up to medium, until it browns slightly and foams up. Sprinkle the flour around the pan and let sit for 15-20 seconds untouched or until flour starts to bubble up slightly.
- Whisk flour and butter together with the shallot garlic mixture until well combined, then gradually add the stock while whisking vigorously to avoid any lumps. Continue to whisk and bring the heat up to medium-high, whisking until sauce begins to boil.
- When sauce starts to boil, add balsamic vinegar, sherry, and mustard powder (keep whisking!). Let sauce thicken and reduce for 1-2 minutes, and then turn heat down to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Add tarragon and mushroom mixture, stirring to combine, and adjust seasoning if necessary with salt and pepper. Transfer sauce into mixing bowl and cover loosely with foil to stay warm.
- Place pan back on medium heat and re-add the chicken pieces until insides are no longer pink (another 2-3 minutes a side). Transfer to serving dish and cover with sauce. Serve immediately.