Friday, February 27, 2015

Chicken and Mushroom Gratinate

Last Year's Post: Power Muffins
Two Years Ago:  Sloppy Joes for Grown-Ups

The first question that came to mind when I found this recipe is "what the heck is a gratinate?"  Here's the definition according to the dictionary:  gratinate - to cook with a covering of buttered crumbs or grated cheese until a crust or crisp surface forms.  "Gratin" has more or less then same definition, so don't ask me how they're different.

Anyway, this is a rustic Italian dish from Lidia Bastianich that certainly fits the description:  chicken and mushrooms covered in melted cheese and cooked in a tomato wine sauce.  

The chicken is cooked on the stovetop low and slow to get it started and keep it tender, then the dish is finished in the oven to melt the cheese and thicken the sauce.

The whole thing cooks in one skillet which makes it great for a weekday meal and gives you time to prepare something to soak up the sauce on the side:  pasta, mashed potatoes, or polenta.  I chose polenta simply because we're having pasta later in the week.

It's somewhat reminiscent of chicken parmesan, but without the fried crust and heavy red sauce.  This dish is lighter while still fancy enough to serve for a Sunday dinner or special occasion.  And completely delicious.

Chicken and Mushroom Gratinate
Serves 4

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 20 ounces total)
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
½ cup flour for dredging
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, divided, cut into cubes
1 cup tomato sauce or tomato puree
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2/3 cup dry white wine
6 fresh sage leaves, shredded
12 small thin slices Fontina cheese, about 4 ounces
8 tablespoons shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 425d.

Cut chicken breasts in half horizontally to form 4 cutlets.  Pound lightly to an even thickness, then dredge in flour to lightly coat both sides.  Salt and pepper each side.  Set aside.

In a large oven-proof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the mushroom caps in a single layer and sauté, about 2 minutes per side, until tender and browned.  Remove and salt lightly.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the olive oil remaining in the pan and reduce heat to medium-low.  When the butter is melted, add the chicken cutlets in one layer and cook gently for about 90 seconds, until very lightly colored with no browning.  Turn cutlets over and spread a heaping tablespoon of tomato sauce on top of each.  Arrange the mushroom caps over the chicken, overlapping to cover, then add 3 small slices of Fontina on top of each cutlet, overlapping to cover.

Raise the heat to medium and sprinkle the red pepper flakes into the sauce.  Add the remaining butter into the sauce.  After the butter melts add the wine and remainder of the tomato sauce around the cutlets (not over them).  Bring to a simmer, then drop the sage into the sauce all around the pan.  Finally, sprinkle two tablespoons of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano over each cutlet.   

Place the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes, then check to see that the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened somewhat.  Turn the broiler on and continue to bake for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully, until the cheese is browned to your liking (do not let burn).

Serve immediately, with polenta, mashed potatoes or pasta to soak up the sauce.

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