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A recipe fighting for life...

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
After giving myself a weekend-long lesson in pan sauces courtesy of the most recent Cook's Illustrated, a recipe has been forming in my head but seems to be sputtering halfway through.

I'd like to take a boneless chicken breast and pound it flat, then halve a link of sweet Italian sausage lengthwise (probably precooked in a pan?) and lay it on the breast, add a slice of mozzarella, a slice of prosciutto,a bit of parmesan, and maybe a basil leaf or two, then fold up the whole shebang into a package. S&P the outside, and saute till chicken is cooked through.

So I'd like to establish a pan sauce with pancetta, garlic, and cream for no other reason then I like all three. But simply dumping all three in a pan and stirring seems like a recipe for failure to this home cook. Whither from here, y'all?
post #2 of 15
for the sauce i would just saute some garlic in butter, add the cream, and i would add some blue cheese along with the panchetta. I think it would be good. And of coarse some salt and pepper.
post #3 of 15
You build a pan or reduction sauce like you do a house. In layers. You first set a foundation. For pan sauce, that foundation is made of some type of oil and if you are using bacon, lardons or pancetta, that means you would first saute off your seasoning meat and remove the seasoning meat from the pan but reserve the fat produced from cooking it.

Then you would use the fat to cook whatever portioned meat you are cooking: Pork chops, pork tenderloins, chicken breasts, chicken parts, flattened chicken or flattened game hen, beef, veal, etc ad nauseum. Then you would usually finish off the meat in the oven because it is an "all over heat" and you want that to cook the meat gently to retain the maximum amount of moisture. The reason you sear the meat in the fat first is three fold: 1. It adds pretty caramellized color. 2. It locks in the liquid juices inside the meat. 3. It adds the second layer or "frame" of seasoning to the pan that will eventually build the sauce.

The walls or structure of the sauce occurs after the portion meat is done and removed from the pan. That is when you use the fat and juices in the pan to cook off aromatics that will add body to the sauce. The aromatics can be anything from a mirapoix - French trinity (onion, celery, carrot), to Cajun trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), to sofrito - Mexican/Spanish/Italian (onion, bell pepper, peppers). It can also be as simple as a clove or two of garlic or a diced shallot or a spoon of chopped onion or green onion. Whatever veggie aromatic you want to do. You cook these till tender and usually translucent but sometimes I want a deep pan sauce and I will caramellize them which means I will cook them longer.

Now it's time for the roof. You keep all the veggies in the pan and usually there won't be alot of extra fat but if there is, pour off the extra fat. You don't have to be exact about this. It's ok to leave a little bit. It will all bind in the end. But the roof is the liquid that will actually make up the sauce. You will deglaze the pan, so you want the pan to be piping hot. Again, all the elements are still in the pan. You are simply adding the next layer of flavor. I usually start by deglazing with a wine, or spirit. It adds unbelievable flavor and makes it complex. You cook it to reduce and concentrate the flavor but to also burn off a majority of the alcohol in it. The rule of thumb is to reduce by half. I rarely measure this amount. I do it till it looks right. But for beginners that's anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup. I usually let it go a little farther than 1/2 way cuz I want a syruppy sauce at this point. It will only add more flavor. You can also deglaze using vinegars, stock, broth, cream, or water. If you are only using on liquid, then only reduce it to 1/2 or a bit less. If you're only using one layer, you will want this a little thinner and sauce-like rather than syrup-like.

NOTE HERE: If you are using a demi-glace or making a glace de viand, this is where you add the tablespoon or two of congealed concentrated stock. Let it dissolve and again, reduce the sauce.

The next part of the sauce is the drywall and fixtures. Add the next layer of liquid. For me the next layer is the layer of liquid like stock or broth. I usually make more stock based pan sauces than I do cream based...just out of preference. I will also add any seasoning herbs at this time like thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, peppers, etc. I let this layer cook down by 1/2 until it's the finished consistency I'm looking for in the sauce.

The next layer is the paint of the house. I add salt, any fine herb seasoning notes that I don't want to mute in the sauce. Any grated cheeses like gruyere or parmesan or anything like that. I do this part off the heat but still in the pan.

The last layer is the touch up work. Cuz the house is built. But before I can finish off the house, I have a decision to make. Am I making a rustic pan sauce where I will serve it "chunky"? Or am I wanting a professional, silky finish. If I'm making a silky sauce, what I'm doing (mainly for company), I will strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer prior to adding the butter to finish it. If I am doing a non-cream based sauce, I will finish my pan sauce with a tablespoon or two of cold unsalted butter. I will first remove and stalks of herbs like thyme or rosemary and then I will swirl the butter into the sauce to incorporate it by shaking and swirling the pan. It must be done off the heat. I do this because it makes the texture silky.

Then the sauce is finished and I serve it immediately. From start to finish a pan sauce should take no more than the 5 minutes of resting that you give your meat. Most of mine are made in about 3-4 minutes. It's very quick!

This is the way I would do this recipe:

First I would saute the pancetta for the sauce in your saute pan that will be used for the chicken. Don't do it in a non-stick pan.

Then, remove the pancetta and leave any fat that rendered out. It probably won't be that much, so I would either supplement with extra bacon grease or extra pancetta grease.

Then use that fat to "sear" the stuffed breast. Sear it on all sides. I would probably season it on the inside of the meat. Then I would finish it in an oven at about 350 or 400 until cooked through. Check whatever the recommended internal temp is for chicken and sausages. I would guess it would be about 8-12 minutes in that range.

Then I would remove the breast from the pan to let it rest for 5 minutes prior to cutting and finish your sauce:
Add a half of a shallot and a clove of garlic, chopped very fine and saute quickly till tender (about 2-3 minutes).
Pour off any extra grease.
Deglaze pan with 1/3 cup of white wine or vermouth
Reduce wine and aromatics by 1/2
Add cream to pan
Reduce sauce by 1/2 or more.

The sauce will thicken as it reduces. Maybe add a chiffonade of basil at the very end. Just one or two leaves, rolled and sliced across the grain very thinly.

Adjust salt and pepper levels of sauce.

Slice breast into 3 or 4 1" slices on a diagonal and either place on a sauce or gently nappe the sauce over the meat.

Top with crumbled pancetta.

Eat and enjoy.
post #4 of 15
I would lightly saute pancetta, then add garlic and saute until light golden brown. Deglaze with white wine, add chicken stock and cream and reduce.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #5 of 15
Wow Bluezebra - that's some reply.....printing it out for future reference!!! Nice way to describe building the sauce too...could almost smell a sauce cooking during the reading :)
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #6 of 15
I love the analogy of pan sauce developement to building a house. It's fun, and accurate too.

However, am I the only one who feels this recipe is a little overwrought? Chicken, sausage, prosciutto AND pancetta? Not even considering the nutritional aspects, the competition of all those meats would tend to cancel out the distinctive flavor of each, IMHO.

The pancetta pan sauce sounds great and the addition of basil chiffonade would be very nice added to a garlic and cream reduction. Why not use some pancetta in the package and skip the sausage and prosciutto? Its delicate flavor complements chicken quite nicely along with the mild flavor of mozzarella (I'd use fresh) and using pancetta in two different forms would add a nice reinforcing note without having to compete with all the others. Including some herbal or vegetable aromatics in the package would be nice-like a clove of roasted garlic or some cremini mushrooms.

Most Italian cooks subscribe to the notion that true Italian recipes are simple--only about five ingredients with uncomplicated treatments. Remember the KISS theory to really make the ingredients in a dish sing!

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #7 of 15
Sounds Cordon Bleu'ish.

Here's how I'd do it.

1) Take the full breast and pound it out

2) Take the raw ground sausage, dice your cheeses, chop your herbs, mix it in with ricotta.

3) Lay the breast out flat and spoon the stuffing on one side

4) Fold the breast one side over the other

5) Lay it on parchment and put it in freezer until firm

6) When it's firm enough, remove from freezer and flour/eggwash/breadcrumb

7) Fry until outside is almost golden

8) Finish in oven

For the sauce.. make it like pan gravy.

1) Saute the pancetta and garlic

2) Remove pancetta and drain fat, keeping 1T in the pan

3) Toss in some flour

4) Add chicken stock

5) Add a touch of cream

S+P to taste.
post #8 of 15
hi foodnphoto - I agree with you on the basic premise of the recipe but I wasn't gonna go there lol. Sometimes you just have to make a recipe as a baseline. That way you can critique the **** out of it and start making changes! :D I think it's a meat lovers orgy on crack! And I do think the potential for losing all the flavor is there. I think the delicacy of prosciutto will probably be swamped by the Italian sausage. The pancetta may also lose some of it's strength because of that but should be able theoretically to stand up a bit better than the prosciutto.

kuan I agree, it does sound a bit like an Italian version of cordon bleu. I like the sound of your recipe much better! I also like that the Italian sausage is not a "whole link" of sausage which is how I perceived the original recipe. I wouldn't have thought of using the ricotta but I really like that idea! I would have tended more toward building a bread based stuffing in there and maybe even adding sage leaves like a crazy mixed up saltimbocca! :eek:

It's very fun to see how everyone approached building the same dish. I almost bet for 100 chefs/cooks you would get maybe 85-95 different cooking methods/orders? It's kinda like in the graphics world. For any one complex technique there are soooo many different paths that lead to the same result. Kinda like there are a "thousand ways to skin a cat"! lol!

DC thanks for the compliment! I just read back through here and saw so many typos and mess-ups. Maybe I will go back and make edits to correct them. I also saw where I completely forgot to add using juice as one of the deglazing options. That should also be added for accuracy!
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Wow to all of you.. I learned more in this one page than I ever thought possible. For the record, this is my first attempt at "composing" a recipe out of whole cloth, compared to my upbringing in a NYC firehouse where recipes tend to begin and end at the stock pot. I kick a** at pot roast and pea soup but other than that...

I also like that the Italian sausage is not a "whole link" of sausage which is how I perceived the original recipe

Sorry- couldn't get the quotes to work right. Bluezebra- your perception was right- my original thought was just to bung a whole link in there and see what happened.

I'd have been happy with ONE way to skin the cat- you guys gave me at least three to play with! :smiles::smiles:
post #10 of 15
bluedogz you know here's the thing...learning techniques set you free. Once you know the basic techniques, you open yourself to countless hours of learning and experimenting. If you allow us to tell you your basic recipe is "wrong" then you allow us to stifle your idea. Who knows? The whole link might be a surprising innovation to stuffing chicken breasts!?! Also, you might have created a completely wonderful meld of flavors by combining prosciutto, sausage and pancetta! See? That's why you really owe it to yourself to make it the way you've dreamed of. Then if it falls short of your expectations, begin tweaking it and make notes so you remember the path of the genesis. So maybe try all of these variations and see which you prefer and go from there. I think there are very few absolutes in cooking...and most of those involve temperatures for obvious health reasons!

I'm really happy to know you are branching out and learning new techniques! You will be able to apply pan sauces to soooo many things! You will also be able to apply saute-ing to so many other dishes and the finish in the oven is such a critical technique too! So please, please, continue to grow and don't let our opinions stunt your momentum!
post #11 of 15
One mistake you may want to correct is reason #2 for searing meat. Searing doesn't seal in juices. It will add a different flavor, however.
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
post #12 of 15
The chicken sounds like a combo between chicken saltimbocca, insalata caprese, and cordon blue. :confused: :lips:. As far as the sauce goes, I would probably just dice some pancetta, cook that on medium-high heat until is crispens and browns, drain the fat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute about 4 cloves of garlic, minced for like 40 seconds until it gets tender and fragrant. Then add 2 tablespoons of European butter and 1/2 cup of heavy cream, just let that meld together a bit. (the heat should be on medium-low at this point- butter burns on a relatively low temperature.) Add a small handful of Asiago cheese and an even smaller handful of smoked mozzarella cheese (grated.) This should be freshly grated because the "stuff" in the ziploc pacakges make the sauce gritty (not in the good way, it will NOT taste like cheesy grits :lol:, but I really can't make any guarantees because I'm making this up as I go.) Add a little fresh basil at the last second (torn, knives sometimes bruise basil), and stir together until ever so slighty wilted. Maybe put a small layer of that on the bottom of a plate, top the chicken "thing" on top, and maybe an ever so slight drizzle of roasted garlic, lemon zest, and basil oil. Do you think that all those meats would be overkill, though? One of the things I despise is when I go to a restaurant and I get like 6 nachoes covered in 2 cups of sour cream, 3 cups of cheddar cheese, 10 cups of salsa, and 15 cups of guacamole. (I'm exaggerating here, but you get the point.) I would personally toss the Italian sausage, but that's just my opinion. - Austin
Meet Austin- destroyer of all picky eaters. He's watching you...
Meet Austin- destroyer of all picky eaters. He's watching you...
post #13 of 15
Hi Greg, will you educate me please? I always thought that searing "closes" the meat so that the juices are more likely to stay inside the meat? Because of the crusting. And yep, it does add a caramelization to the meat and flavor...

Interest in learning and being correct! TIA! :D
post #14 of 15
Easiest way to see this for yourself is to cook a burger. Sear one side and flip. Before too long, you'll see the juices start to bleed out the top. Also, that sizzling sound you're hearing as meat cooks is the sound of the juices of the meat cooking on the pan. Funny thing is, the idea that searing sealed in moisture was first proposed in the mid-1800's. It was disproved around twenty years later, but the sealing myth lives on; it's what I was taught when I first started out. The thing that prevents moisture loss in cooking meat more than anything else is natural convection.

I recommend you buy the Harold McGee book "On Food and Cooking". 800+ pages of information like this on the how and the why of cooking. You'll love it.
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
post #15 of 15
Cool thanks for the explanation! I've been cooking now for about 40 years and always thought that if the meat were unseared, more juices would escape than the ones already escaping. See, I never expected zero% juice loss, just a reduction in the juice loss. And mostly I expect to see less juice loss with more "closed fiber" meats like large muscles as opposed to chopped or mascerated meats or ground like in a burger. The reason I would expect to see less fluid loss in a long muscle, say a loin is because I guess I assumed the protein fibers would tighten and pull together...
I will see if the library has that book! Again, cool info!
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