Thursday, January 15, 2009

Porcini and Pine Nut Chicken with a Light Pasta

Extra Virgin is one of my favorite restaurants in the West Village and probably the city, right around the corner from us on Bleecker. My favorite thing to order there is the Porcini Crusted Chicken with Pea Risotto and Truffle oil. The only problem is - it gives me a food hangover. Although it's a chicken dish, there's enough love in it (i.e. truffle oil and God knows what else) to sink a small battleship.

So I've recreated it - Meat and Potatoes style - simplifying the ingredients and lightening it up substantially. In fact, I'd better call it an 'homage' rather than a recreation, as their chef would probably be horrified by what I've done!

You do need a mini prep (food processor) or a clean coffee grinder to make the Porcini dust, which despite its distinct odor, is incredibly delicious. I'm even going to say you could skip the Porcini all together, if you couldn't find it in your area. I buy them here at an Italian specialty shop inside the Chelsea Market and you can also order them online.

One word of warning - seasoned breadcrumbs are usually pretty salty, hence my only adding a small pinch of salt to the mixture and skipping salting the chicken before coating. If you know your brand isn't salty, then be sure and season the chicken with a little salt before spreading the mixture over. You can make the pasta included below as a side dish in the time the chicken bakes, which proves even more how much they were made for one. Enjoy!

Porcini and Pine Nut Chicken
Serves 2.

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 heaping tablespoon of dried porcini mushroom powder (1/3 cup of dried Porcini mushrooms ground in a food processor or coffee grinder to a fine powder should yield a heaping tablespoon)
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
small pinch each salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350. Cover a small cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Place your toasted pine nuts in a small Ziploc bag and gently bash with the flat end of a meat mallet or the bottom of a can of tomatoes. You just want to break them up into crumbles, not smash them beyond identification. Add your porcini powder, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to the bag, seal, and shake vigorously to combine well.

Place your chicken breast cutlets on your prepared cookie sheet, then spread the bread crumb mixture evenly over the chicken, covering completely and making sure the sides are coated. Drizzle evenly with the olive oil (you just want to give a good, thorough scattering of oil over the top, not drown them. In fact, if anything, they will still look a little dry when you put them in the oven as the porcini dust and breadcrumbs soak up the oil at a terrifying rate.) Cook for 22-25 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken and how aggressive your oven is.

Cherry Tomato, Basil, and Feta Pasta
Serves 5.

1/2 pound rotini (cork screw) pasta
small handful of kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus one teaspoon
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
couple handfuls washed fresh basil leaves
2.5 oz feta cheese crumbles

Set a large pot of water over high heat heat to boil. Once it does, add the salt stirring in, then your pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente, usually 8 minutes, but consult your package directions to be sure.

Meanwhile, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large rimmed skillet over medium high heat for one minute. Add your tomato halves and season well with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium and stir frequently, while the pasta cooks. Once the pasta's ready, use a strainer to add it to the tomatoes. Stir in the extra teaspoon olive oil as well as the basil leaves and feta crumbles. Taste for salt, adding any if necessary, and serve.

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