Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil

Let’s face it. Chicken breast, even on its best day, can be a little boring. Sure it’s can be delicious in some cases – breaded and fried, slow roasted with the bone in and skin on – are a few preparations that come to mind. But on it’s own, chicken breast doesn’t cut it for me. What does cut it for me is a chicken breast that has been stuffed with mozzarella and basil and wrapped in prosciutto.

Not only are mozzarella, basil and prosciutto a fabulous flavor combination, but the fat in the mozzarella and prosciutto also help keep the chicken moist throughout the cooking process.

The end product is far from dry and has the perfect mixture of saltiness from the prosciutto. Stuffing a chicken breast can seem intimidating, but actually, this process was extremely easy. All you do is take a chicken breast, cut it through the middle until it is nearly cut through, and open it up so it lays flat like a pancake (otherwise known as butterflying). If you are anxious about doing this (but don’t be!), you can also have your butcher do this for you. Once the chicken has been butterflied and seasoned with salt and peeper, you add your cheese of choice (blue cheese, brie, manchego and mozzarella are all great choices) and then top with a few leaves of fresh basil.

Once you have stuffed the chicken, you then simply place the cut half back on top of the bottom part of the breast.

Don’t worry if the stuffing is sticking out slightly, as mine is above. The prosciutto will cover it so that you avoid any melting in the pan or grill.

You can count on using about 2 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto to cover each chicken breast completely. When you cook the chicken, the prosciutto will get slightly crisp and is a nice textural contrast to the tender chicken.

I served this chicken with kale chips (what else is new) and a fabulous sweet potato gratin (recipe coming soon) for a well-rounded, healthy weeknight meal!

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil – Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 6-8 ounce portions of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 4 ounces prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • S+P to taste
  • Oil for pan frying

Directions

Butterfly chicken breasts and sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on the chicken breast. Follow with a couple of leaves of basil. Make sure you don’t overstuff the chicken, or you won’t be able to roll it back up. Once you have added the mozzarella and basil, place the top half of the breast on top. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Wrap each chicken breast with two slices of prosciutto so that it it is completely covered. Note, I think it is easiest for cooking the chicken if the prosciutto is wrapped in such a way that the ends, or seams, are on the same side of the breast.

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken BreastIn a large, heavy set pan (cast iron or stainless steal is best), heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken with the prosciutto seam side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the prosciutto starts to brown and you can easily loosen it from the pan. Cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continuing cooking the chicken, flipping occasionally, until it is completely cooked through or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and enjoy!

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Little Bucharest Bistro

Restaurant Review – Little Bucharest

My Dad recently found a Groupon for a restaurant that he and my Mom used to dine at over 30 ago called Little Bucharest.

After seeing the Groupon come through his email, he decided to check out the menu and see what had changed in the years since he had been there. For one, he learned that the restaurant moved locations and is now in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood. He also noticed that the menu had been modernized and updated. Specifically, the menu included some Greek and Mediterranean dishes in addition to the classic Romanian ones that the restaurant became known for.

When we got to the restaurant at 6:45, there were only a few diners in the restaurant. A lack of busyness on a Friday night is usually not a good sign for a restaurant, but Little Bucharest proved my preconceived notions wrong. I think one explanation for the limited number of patrons is the fact that Little Bucharest is pretty far north and west in the city. For people who live closer to the loop and may not have cars, it could prove difficult to get to. But if you do have access to a car or can take public transportation, I would suggest you hightail it to this restaurant, because the distance is definitely worth it. Also, I should note that by the time we left around 8:30, there were quite a few more people eating!

Little Bucharest

Generally, the atmosphere is really nice at Little Bucharest (PS – Bucharest is the capital of Romania). It is sort of dark, which is not great for blog picture taking (sorry for the flash!), but is a nice relaxing environment. What makes the ambiance in this restaurant even better is the quality of the staff. The maître ’de, who we think is also the owner, was extremely friendly and welcoming the moment we walked into the restaurant. He continued to come over and check on us throughout the course of dinner making sure everything was up to par. While receiving too much attention can sometimes get annoying during a meal, this guy struck the perfect balance.

Our waiter was also knowledgeable, friendly and beyond gracious. He, like the owner, checked in on us often, provided us with explanations of the Romanian dishes and even offered us recommendations on his favorite dishes. To boot, he insisted that we take an extra bottle of wine home because we were too full to enjoy a dessert that he wanted to give us on the house!

Speaking of the wine, the four of us (my Dad, Mom, Kate and I) enjoyed a Romanian Cabernet Sauvignon. The waiter informed us that this wine wouldn’t be like the big bold ones that you might expect from Napa, but that it was still a good wine. And for the $25 price tag per bottle, I thought it was great.

Romanian Cabernet Sauvignon

As for the food at Little Bucharest, I would say that it is pretty meat dominated. That isn’t to say that a vegetarian couldn’t eat here, because they certainly could, but I think that the most interesting of all the entrees that I saw had meat in them. I don’t eat a ton a meat when I am out because I am often not sure of the source, and prefer to eat stuff that is local, organic and/or raised ethically. However, I did later learn that Little Bucharest does try to source its meat and dairy from local farms that produce their product in sustainable ways.

One of the other reasons I sometimes opt to eat veggie when I dine out is that these dishes can be some of the best options on a menu! While Little Bucharest didn’t have a ton of veggie offerings from an entrée perspective, they did have lots of delicious looking soup and appetizer options that the waiter recommended. One of these dishes was the “Ciorba de Borscht,” or Beet Soup.

Borscht

While the picture might not be much to look at, don’t let that fool you about this soup. Borscht is popular in many Eastern European counties including Romania, Poland and Russia and every country makes it a slightly different way. My Dad could remember getting a cold Polish version many years ago and being turned off from all beet soup from then on. Well this beet soup turned his opinion around!

It was chock full of beets and cabbage (loved this addition) and was absolutely perfectly seasoned. Little Bucharest also stirred in some sour cream to the soup which offered a nice balance to the tartness of the soup. I also took this opportunity to dip the restaurant’s fresh, homemade bread into the soup.

Homemade bread

In addition to the Borscht, we also got some saganaki, which is not traditionally Romanian, but the owner insisted was so good that he had to put it on the menu. Let me tell you, he is not wrong.

Saganaki

My whole family agreed that this was some of the best saganaki that we had ever had. I am not sure if it was a specific brand of kasseri cheese or if the chef seasoned it just right, but we all loved this dish.

Per the recommendation of our waiter, I ordered the “Vinete” Eggplant Spread for my entrée. This dish is listed as an appetizer on the menu, but it was a generous portion thanks to the plentiful amount of dip, pita slivers and fresh salad that was full of cucumbers, olives, onions, tomatoes and fresh feta cheese.

Eggplant Spread

The eggplant spread was very creamy and had a good balance of flavors thanks to (I think) garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and roasted eggplant. I actually took some of this dip home with me because I got full eating of my parents’ and sister’s dishes.

They all ordered different entrees and we did a rotation around the table, so that we could try a bit of everything. My dad ordered the Bucharest Signature Braised Short Rib Goulash.

Bucharest Signature Braised Short Rib Goulash

The short rib came in a tomatoes stew that included green beans, pearl onions and homemade gnocchi. Traditionally, you might expect goulash to be served over mashed or roasted potatoes or with plain white rice, but I thought that addition of gnocchi was not only delicious, but it was also unexpected and unique. The seasonings in this dish were also completely unique and unlike anything flavor combination I have ever had. There was a subtle sweetness (perhaps from cinnamon or nutmeg) that complemented the tender short rib so nicely. All I could think about when I ate this dish is how much Tommy would LOVE it.

Another person I thought of during this dinner was my brother-in-law Ben. That guy is in love with schnitzel and when I tasted my Mom’s dish, I immediately knew we had to bring Ben back here to get his fix.

Schnitzel

My Mom kept exclaiming while eating this pork schnitzel: “this is the best schnitzel I have ever had, we have to bring Ben here.” From what I tasted, I could definitely agree with her. It was lightly fried, had a crispy exterior and was served over a bed of horseradish spatzle(!!!). I absolutely love spatzle, which is a type of egg noodle that is traditionally served in German cuisine, and the fact that this had horseradish in it, put it over the top. It made for flavorful noodles of course, but when you added it to your fork with a bite of the schnitzel, it was the perfect pairing, flavor and texture wise. Finally, the dish was served with arugula (which I think is a great addition because it cuts the heaviness of the fried pork a bit), some bacon and a red pepper coulis sauce.

For the last dish of the night, Kate got the stuffed cabbage. Again, as I am sure is no surprise to you, this dish was over the top.

Stuffed cabbage

The mini stuffed pickled stuffed cabbage leaves were filled with a mixture of pork, ground beef and sautéed rice. They were then stewed in a tomato jus and served alongside some polenta with crème fresh on top. Not only were the seasonings in the meat mixture fabulous, but the pickling of the cabbage was such a great addition because it gave some acidity to the dish. The polenta was also perfectly cooked and tasted fabulous with the tomato jus.

All in all, everything tasted amazing and presented beautifully. We could not believe that this small restaurant put so much effort into coming up with complex flavor combinations, non-traditional pairings and lovely presentation. It is even more impressive if you consider the very small kitchen in the restaurant that has one tiny woman doing all the cooking!

Kitchen

I think that, if possible, the little lady doing all the cooking, made me love this restaurant even more. It was also interesting hearing about how the place has adapted and changed over the past 30 or so years from the time my parents went there (before they had us kids).

Even though its not as easy to get to as some of my favorite neighborhood spots, Little Bucharest is worth the extra effort. I am already scheming to take Tommy here next time he is in town.

Have you ever had Romanian food before? If so, what is your favorite dish on the menu?

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

I love squash soup.  It’s a wonderful, veggie filled, hearty soup perfect for a cold night (which Chicago has had quite a few of lately . . . ).

This recipe is a little different than the traditional flavors you may have found in squash soup thanks to the addition of curry powder.  The curry powder adds a spicy element and really balances the sweetness of the squash.

Because of the curry flavors, I opted to top the soup with some traditional curry accompaniments including toasted sweetened coconut and scallions.  I also decided to roast up the butternut squash seeds, which made for a crunchy, salty topping on the soup.

The last thing I’ll mention about what makes this soup extra special is that I roasted the veggies (and fruit – there is an apple in this recipe as well!) in the oven for about 45 minutes prior to pureeing them.  The roasting method really extracts extra flavor by allowing the sugars in the veggies to caramelize a bit.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Makes 4-6 entrée size portions (inspired by this recipe)

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped butternut squash (about 4 lbs), chopped into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 a medium sized onion, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored and cut into one inch pieces (use anything but a tart green apple)
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • S+P
  • 2-4 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 TB heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced on a bias

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place veggies in a single layer on 1-2 sheet pans.  Drizzle with olive oil to coat veggies and season with salt and pepper. Roast veggies for 40-50 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Place roasted veggies into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Place pureed veggies into a stock pan and add 2-4 cups chicken broth (depending on the consistency you prefer) and the curry powder.  Heat the soup, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Finish with cream and serve with condiments.

For condiments:

To toast the coconut, place in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Cook in a 350 oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To make the toasted butternut squash seeds.  Remove them from the squash. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the seeds on the sheet and spray with more cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt.  Cook for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

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Dill Chicken with Tomato-Dill Relish

Dill Chicken with Tomato-Dill Relish

This recipe came from the September 2009 issue of Gourmet and I made some slight modifications to accommodate my personal tastes. The recipe calls for making a relish; which means mixing some ingredients and serving cold [or room temp]. I preferred to have tomatoes slightly sautéed, so put the relish into a pan and worked it for two minutes to get it warm.

Another variation is I left out the grained mustard, since my wife simply doesn’t like mustard. I would include the mustard to give it just a bit more flavor.

To prepare the chicken you can either use your BBQ or you can use the stove. I used the stove method because I was out of charcoal – of all the things. Nevertheless, the stove method works as well. I have a pan with grill slates on the bottom and I sear on each side for 2 minutes then bake at 500 for 6 minutes. The original recipe called for grilling on the BBQ, however, I will show you the stove method.

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-oz) skinless boneless chicken breasts halves.
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes – quartered

Directions

Preheat your oven to 500° F.
Pound the chicken to ¼ inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap with a meat pounder (flat side).
Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides
Whisk together the olive oil, dill, shallot, white-wine vinegar and grainy mustard.
Cut your cherry tomatoes into quarters and place in a bowl. Add ¼ cup the relish to the tomatoes.
With the remainder of the relish, spread over the chicken on both sides.
Cook the chicken in a skillet for 2 minutes per side.
Then place the chicken (in the skillet) into the oven and bake for 6 minutes or until just done.
Meanwhile, if you want to heat your relish like I did, place the relish in a pan and sauté for 2 minutes.
When the chicken is done, place each breast onto a plate and garnish with the relish.

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Chicken Tomato Basil

Chicken Tomato Basil

Here is a quick recipe that will take your boring chicken night to the next level. This recipe comes from Chef Ramsey’s The “F” Word that aired on Wednesday and combines frying the chicken to seal in the flavor then baking to finish it off.

Rather than the sauces you may have seen in prior recipes on this site, this takes some simple ingredients [shallots, garlic, basil, and tomatoes] and tops the chicken during the baking process. The mozzarella cheese tops the whole ordeal to hold it together.

You will notice that the ingredient list does not show exact measurements. Well for one I jotted down this recipe from the show and has not been posted on the site [The “F” Word], and I think we are getting to the point, if you have been following this blog, where we cook by feel more than by measurements. Except for baking! Yep baking takes precise measurements.

So back to the chicken.

Ingredients

  • Skinned, boned chicken breast
  • Flour
  • Egg wash (two eggs beaten)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Shallots chopped
  • Garlic chopped
  • Basil rough chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes quartered
  • Mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450°.
  2. Clean your chicken breasts and butterfly them to make them cook more evenly. Alternatively you can pound the chicken flat.
  3. Run the chicken through the flour and dust off the excess. Coat the chicken in the egg wash. Then run it through the bread crumbs. Salt and pepper.
  4. In a skillet on medium heat, add some olive oil to the pan and place the chicken in the pan. Sear the chicken on both sides, then put on a plate and set a side. The chicken will not be fully cooked through yet.
  5. In a skillet on medium-high heat, add olive oil, garlic and shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes. Then add the basil and tomatoes. Cook down for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Put the chicken (you set aside) on a baking sheet. Place the tomato basil mixture on top of the chicken. Slice the mozzarella cheese and put on top of the tomato basil mixture. (Your building a creation here).
  7. Bake for 8-9 minutes until the chicken is done. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let rest for 3 minutes.
  8. Plate up.
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