R and I bit the bullet and made the drive to Toronto. A five hour drive (longer with a baby) can be pretty daunting with a baby that has a bit of a sleep/hate relationship with her car seat. But, I really wanted to introduce Ms. E to my Baba (now known as: Super Baba) and get some pictures of the two of them together.
On our last night in Toronto, we had the family over for dinner. Giz already told you about some of the dishes we made here. In addition to those vegetarian recipes, we wanted to have one dish for the meat eaters. Right away, I knew I wanted to made a dish from my most recently acquired cookbook: Lidia's Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrees
As the title suggests, this cookbook contains a collection of Lidia's favorite and most accessible recipes. Also check out Lidia's website, which has lots of recipes. videos, and other content, here.
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After tagging all of the recipes that I was interested in trying (a process the becomes futile when almost every page is tagged), I decided I wanted to make the Chicken Breast with Eggplant and Fontina Cheese.
Chicken Breast with Eggplant and Fontina Cheese
1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
6 tbsp of EVOO
Six 6-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
Fresh ground black pepper
6 slices of prosciutto cut in half (I didn't really half them)
5 tbsp unsalted butter
All-purpose flour for dredging
6 cloves of garlic, peeled (I minced them as well)
1/2 cup drive white wine
About 1 cup of hot chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) seeded and chopped
12 fresh basil leaves, plus more (optional for decorating the plates)
6 ounces of Italian Fontina cheese, cut into thin slices
2 tbsp Tomato Sauce or liquid from the canned tomatoes
Trim the stem from the eggplant. Remove the strips of peel about 1 inch wide, leaving about half the peel intact, and cut the eggplant into 1-inch crosswise slices. Sprinkle a baking sheet with salt, arrange the slices over the salt and sprinkle with more salt. Let them stand until both sides are wet, about 30 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly, and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Wipe the baking sheet clean, and oil it generously, using about half the oil. Arrange the eggplant on the baking sheet, and turn to coat the slices with oil.
Roast until tender and well-brouned, turning them and rotating them in the pan as necessary, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
Cut each chicken breast in half on a bias, and lightly pound it. Season the chicken very lightly with salt (We omitted) and pepper (the prosciutto will give the dish plenty of salt as is), and layer each piece of chicken with half a slice of the prosciutto tapping the prosciutto with the back of the knife so it adheres to the meat.
Heat 2 tbsp of the remaining olive oil and 2 tbsp of the butter in a heavy, wide skilled over medium heat. Dredge the chicken in flour to coat both sides lightly, tapping off excess flour, and add as many to the skillet, prosciutto side down, as will fit without overlapping. Cook just until the prosciutto is light golden, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is browned, about 2 minutes. Remove, and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more oil if necessary.
After removing the last piece of chicken from the skillet, pour in the remaining oil, and scatter the garlic in the skillet. Cook, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes (Lower the heat, if necessary, so the bits of flour that stick to the pan don't burn while the garlic is browning). Pour the wine into the skillet, bring to a boil, and boil until it's almost completely evaporated. Pour in the stock, and drop in the remaining 3 tbsps of butter. Bring to a boil, stir in the chopped tomatoes, and boil until the sauce is lightly reduces and glossy about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, arrange the scaloppine side by side in a baking dish. Cover them with the eggplant, coating or tearing the slices as necessary to cover all the scaloppine more or less evenly, and top each with a leaf of basil.
Dividing the Fontina slices evenly over the eggplant, doting the Fontina slices with a dab of tomato sauce. Pour the pan sauce around the chicken and bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned in place and the sauce is lightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the bubbly chicken to serving plates, placing two on each (we didn't serve the chicken this way). Spoon the sauce -- through a strained if you like -- around the plates. Decorate the plates with additional basil leaves if desired.
Verdict: Let me start by saying that this dish was so tasty! I think it was both Giz's and my favourite dish of the night! But I learned a lesson with this dish. I need to spend more time reading and visualizing the steps of an recipe before I start it. I tend to start things and believe that I'll just figure it out as I go. This approach can work, but when you've got a recipe with several components and steps, along with several other dishes on the go, it can be a bit chaotic. Having already made the recipe once, it'll be easier to make it again in the future. But, I found myself re-reading the recipe as I had my hands covered in ingredients and things burning on the stove. I also now know that you can pretty much complete the recipe to the point just before putting it in the oven (i.e., the part where you "bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned in place and the sauce is lightly thickened, about 10 minutes"). You just want to be mindful of the chicken, which won't be fully cooked through yet if you've only cooked each side for two minutes.
Some of the other recipes I'm looking forward to making include: Arancini di Riso (rice balls...but it sounds so much better in Italian), Minestrone Soup, Tagliatelle with Wild Mushroom Sauce, Ziti with Roasted Eggplant and Ricotta Cheese, and Marinated Winter Squash.
Disclaimer: A free review copy of this cookbook was sent to me.