We eat a lot of chicken in this house. That's because it is fairly inexpensive . . . and, in all truth, we like it. We don't eat a lot of red meat actually, or processed meats . . . mostly just fish and chicken (not together), and if it's chicken . . . it's usually chicken breasts. That can get old pretty quickly, unless you are prepared and armed with a lot of different ideas on how to prepare it.
I think I could write a cook book based just cooking chicken breasts. They are like a beautiful canvas just waiting to be painted on. You can do soooo very much with them. Their mild flavour easily adapts to most other flavors, and . . . as long as you don't over-cook them, they are really quite delicious. Over-cooked chicken breasts are about as palatable as eating an old boot . . . and probably just as tasty.
I think people are afraid of getting salmonella, and so they cook them to death. The only thing you need to be concerned with when cooking chicken, is that the juices run clear . . . as long as the juices run clear . . . your chicken is cooked. Thighs and legs . . . they take to longer cooking times, and in fact the longer you cook them, the more succulent they are. Breasts however . . . you want to cook them at a high temperature and fairly quickly. Long and slow cooking just isn't well suited to chicken breast meat . . . it dries it out and makes it tough.
Today I wrapped our chicken breasts in some thinly sliced proscuitto, and then baked them in a hot oven with some potato wedges, celery and leeks . . . a bit of white wine, some cream . . . and some wonderful fresh herbs. The proscuitto protected the chicken breast meat, and kept it from over browning on the outsides before they were cooked on the insides . . . keeping them moist and succulent.
The potatoes got a nice brown crust, almost like roasted potatoes . . . and the leeks and celery almost melted into the cream and wine, creating a luscious and flavorful sauce . . . especially with the added touch of thyme and marjoram . . .
It was almost like a chicken and ham pot pie . . . except without the crust. Aside from the cream, it was also fairy healthy . . . and quite colorful too.
Just look at that moist chicken . . . and those deliciously tender vegetables . . . why . . . they look almost good enough to eat!
You could call this a hot pot . . . but I just call it a deliciously easy bake. A rose by any other name and all that . . .
*Parma Chicken and Vegetable Bake*
A delicious all in one recipe that will have them coming back for more. I often double this.
2 TBS olive oil
6 large baking potatoes
1 large leek, washed, trimmed, and most of the tougher dark green part discarded
3 celery stalks, washed and trimmed
4 large free range boneless, skinless chicken breasts
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 to 8 thin slices of Proscuitto
a few sprigs each of fresh thyme and marjoram
a splash of white wine
250ml of double cream (1 cup, whipping cream)
Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Pour the olive oil into a large baking dish or roasting pan. Set aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into large wedges. Place them into a pot of lightly salted boiling water. Bring the water back to the boil and then boil them for about 3 minutes, no longer. While the potatoes are cooking bang the pan with the olive oil into the oven. Drain the potatoes well. Tip them into the hot oil in the baking dish and shake them to coat them with the oil. Put the pan in the oven while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Carefully slit, clean and rinse the leek. Cut it into slices. Do the same to the celery. Season each chicken breast with some salt and black pepper and wrap each piece with some of the proscuitto. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Tip in the celery and leek, give it all a good stir. Season the vegetables lightly with some salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the sprigs of herbs over all. Tuck the chicken breasts in amongst the vegetables. Pour in a splash of white wine. You will only need about half a cup or so. Pour the cream around the chicken in the dish.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are meltingly tender.
Serve with some crusty bread and mashed swede on the side.