Monday, March 29, 2010

Chicken Parmigiana and Crostini with Fig, Apples and Pecorino Romano

Kevin and I were so happy to have our friends Dan and Elana over for dinner yesterday. As a lawyer and pharmacist, these two are often too busy to cook, and I love to treat them to dinner because they always seem to enjoy it. They had just returned home from a trip to Florida to watch the Twins at training camp and, needless to say, after a week of burgers and hot dogs, they badly needed a home cooked meal. I wanted to serve them something delicious, but didn't want to spend too much cash or the entire day over the stove.

Enter one of my very favorite go-to meals- Chicken Parmigiana! Who doesn't like tender chicken smothered in cheese and resting on a bed of noodles and homemade spaghetti sauce? Along with it I served a simple beet and feta salad, roasted garlic bread and crostini smeared with a homemade fig and almond jam and topped with a crisp granny smith apple slice and piece of salty, nutty pecorino romano cheese. What an appetizer! The sweet jam had a faint hint of brandy, and the cheese provided that perfect salty bite to contrast the sweetness. The apple brought it all together with a tart finish. The crostini were a delightful mouthful of flavor! I hope you enjoy this meal, it's perfect for a dinner party but easy enough for any night of the week!

Chicken Parmigiana
Tender, cheesy chicken atop homemade spaghetti sauce bursting with wine and rich flavors.
Serves 4

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Trimmed And Pounded Flat (or 8 tenderloins if you prefer)
½ cups All-purpose Flour
Salt And Pepper, to taste
½ cups Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
¾ cups Wine (white Or Red Is Fine)
3 cans (14.5 Oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Sugar
¼ cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 pound Spaghetti

Mix flour, salt, and pepper together on a large plate. Dredge flattened chicken breasts in flour mixture. Set aside.

Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted and oil/butter mixture is hot, fry chicken breasts until nice and golden brown on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Remove chicken breasts from the skillet and keep warm.

Without cleaning skillet, add onions and garlic and gently stir for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape the bottom of the pan, getting all the flavorful bits off the bottom. Allow wine to cook down until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Pour in crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook for 30 minutes. Toward the end of cooking time, add chopped parsley and give sauce a final stir.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water for the Spaghetti, and boil until al dente. Mix with some olive oil to prevent sticking and cover to keep warm. 

Carefully lay chicken breasts on top of the sauce and completely cover them in grated Parmesan. Place lid on skillet and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until cheese is melted and chicken is thoroughly heated. Add more cheese to taste.

Place cooked noodles on a plate and cover with sauce. Place chicken breast on top and sprinkle with more parsley. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Crostini with Fig, Apples and Pecorino Romano
Sweet, salty and tart, a mouthful of flavor in one small bite!
Serves 8 (3 pieces each)

6 dried figs, halved
1/2 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts or almonds, your choice
24 baguette slices
Olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 large apple (Granny Smith or Braeburn), thinly sliced into 24 slices
1/4 pound chunk Pecorino Romano, for shaving 24 pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the figs, simple syrup, and brandy. Bring the mixture up to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Place the fig mixture and the hazelnuts in a food processor and blend, pulsing a few times, until pureed. Set aside. 

Place the baguette slices on a heavy baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Top each slice with 1 teaspoon grated Pecorino Romano. Bake until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and golden, about 7 minutes. 

Top each slice of toast with 2 teaspoons of fig jam, a slice of apple and a piece of shaved Pecorino Romano. Transfer the toasts to a serving platter and serve.

Simple Syrup Recipe

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Take pan off heat and cool the syrup. Any extra cooled syrup can be saved in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentis

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