Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Summer Lovin': Chicken Paillards with Proscuitto and Figs

Last night I made one of my all time favorite summertime dinners. It is beautiful to look at, a revelation to eat and oh so elegant on a plate, with its gem-like colors. But it couldn't be easier to prepare. This has been served for Impressive Dinner Parties and as a regular weekday meal. Because the family deserves to eat just as well when it's just us as when we're entertaining.

The arrival of the first figs in the market is the cue that this dish will be on the menu. The original recipe called for fresh figs for the sauce but a) that can sometimes amount to a king's ransom (unless you know someone with a fig tree, you lucky thing) and 2) I think the dried figs actually impart a deeper, richer flavor to the sauce anyway.

Chicken Paillards with Prosciutto and Figs
Serves 4 but can easily be increased to serve more

6 T. white wine
3 T. finely chopped fresh rosemary plus 4 sprigs
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 T. fresh lemon juice plus 1 lemon sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
1 t. salt¼ t. freshly ground pepper
¼ c. olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded ¼ in. thick
1-2 pints fresh Black Mission figs (you're shooting for 3 figs per diner, although that seems stingy, doesn't it?)
1 one-pound loaf country bread, cut into 1 ½ inch thick slices
8 slices prosciutto

Combine wine, chopped rosemary, pepper flakes, lemon juice, salt, pepper and oil. Pour into a large, shallow non-reactive dish. Add check breasts, lemon slices and 4 rosemary sprigs to the marinade. Cover; refrigerate 3 hours or up to overnight, turning chicken occasionally.

Brush grill with oil. Heat grill to medium hot. Just before cooking chicken, oil grill again. Grill chicken until juices run clear, 3 to 5 minutes, per side; set aside.

Grill whole figs on coolest part of grill until soft and warm, 3 to 6 minutes.

(If you want to be really groovy, take some long stems of fresh rosemary, pull off the lower leaves leaving just a tuft at the top and use these to skewer the figs, like kabobs. I forgot to do that last night but it makes a very nice presentation).

Slather bread with extra virgin olive oil and grill until bread is browned on both sides.Wrap prosciutto loosely around each chicken breast. Arrange on a platter.

Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve with Balsamic Fig Sauce, figs and bread.

Balsamic Fig Sauce
1 pound dried Black Mission figs, chopped
2/3 c. red wine
2 T. balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper
1 t. sugar
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Combine all ingredients with ½ c. water in a small saucepan.

Cover; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer; cook, partially covered, until fruit has broken down, 20 to 30 minutes.Let cool slightly; remove rosemary sprig. Press mixture through a large-holed sieve with a rubber spatula.

If the sauce seems too thin, bring it to a gentle boil and allow to reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

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