My unexpected drive through Piedmont last weekend left me with an appreciation for the wonderful food of this region. The rolling hills of what is known as the Langhe gently slope towards the incredible peaks of the north. The cuisine of this peaceful area offers up some of the best that Italy offers – the Alba white truffle, the Valle D’Aosta influenced fontina, the native hazelnut – all offered with glasses of ruby red Barolo. Simple but elegant ingredients elevated to stardom in their simplicity. My meals at the tranquil agritourismo ‘La Luna e i Falo’ (translation ‘The Moon and the Bonfires’ – more on my stay and the legend later) highlighted the delightful culinary specialities found in this region. Last night, after returning from my trip, I was craving the hazelnut-crusted veal that my gracious hosts served at ‘La Luna’. Still suffering from a tad of jet lag, I decided to substitute chicken for the veal rather than head to the market….either works beautifully. The yummy fontina against the salty taste of the prosciutto is delightful; the hazelnut crust added an unexpected crunch. This dish is quick and easy….a great weeknight meal. Enjoy…
Hazelnut-crusted Fontina and Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken
4 chicken breasts, trimmed
4 slices of prosciutto
4 slices of fontina cheese
2 ounces hazelnuts, toasted and crushed
2 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1. Rinse and pat the chicken breasts dry. Butterfly each breast. Use a sharp boning knife and cut the breast across horizontally about 1/4 inch from the other end. Open the breast flat. Using a mallet, pound the breasts until even thickness.
2. Lay 1 slice of prosciutto and 1 slice of fontina cheese on one side of each breast. Fold the other half of the breast over the prosciutto and press down firmly. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.
3. Salt and pepper the outside of each chicken breast. Place hazelnuts in a shallow bowl. Dredge each chicken breast in the hazelnuts to coat.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Place chicken breasts in pan. Cook until chicken breast is cooked through on one side – approximately 5 minutes.Flip and cook other side until cooked through and the cheese is melted. (Try not to turn too many times so the hazelnut crust does not fall off.) Transfer to a warm plate and tent with foil.
5. Add chopped garlic to pan and saute until lightly browned. Deglaze by pouring the white wine into the pan and scrape up any browned bits. Cook until wine is slightly reduced and warmed through. Add chopped parsley. Stir to blend.
6. Plate chicken and pour wine sauce over ….enjoy!