Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Silver Palate Cookbook Riff...Chicken Blanketed with Mushrooms & Speck

Sometimes a little disorganization pays off. A few weeks ago while looking for an entirely different cookbook on my shelves, I came upon my old, early 1980's copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook. I love this book, and being easily distracted, I sat on the floor in the hall and started thumbing through it, remembering old favorites, and the dinner parties I threw with this book propped on the counter as I cooked. Some books I consider seminal cookbooks for me; The Silver Palate was one, right next to it on the shelf lives the Frog / Commisary Cookbook another one.

Being young, newly married, and having bought our first home (mortgage rates were at 12% back then), we ate a lot of chicken, a lot. It was cheap, and you could dress it up, and I did. One of my absolute favorites was "Chicken Baked on a Bed of Wild Mushrooms". Wild mushrooms seemed so sophisticated back then, and I could squeeze the food budget enough to get them at the Mushroom Palace, over in Devon on a fairly regular basis. Just to make that recipe.

It was tempting to just make that old recipe as written, just one more time and I had the basic ingredients on hand, but I had other things, too, that I wanted to use for dinner that night. So my chicken, isn't on a bed, it's under a blanket. A creamy blanket of mushrooms and smokey pork (Italian speck) for good measure.

Chicken Blanketed with Mushrooms & Speck

Chicken Blanketed with Mushrooms & Speck

Inspired by "Chicken on a Bed of Wild Mushrooms" from The Silver Palate Cookbook.

Serves 4-6

1 oz. dried wild mushroom (porcini or morels)
1-1/2 cups boiling chicken stock
3T olive oil, divided
1-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved through the middle and pounded flat
4 oz. of speck or lean smoked bacon, in 1/4" dice
8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup sweet vermouth
2 tsp. dried marjoram
salt and pepper

1. Place the dried mushrooms in a heatproof bowl, and pour the boiling stock over them. Press down on them if needed to submerge. Let stand 10 minutes.  Spray a 4-quart shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Heat 2 T of the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken on each side for about 2 minutes. Remove the browned chicken to the sprayed baking dish, arranging evenly over the bottom of the dish. Turn off the heat under the skillet. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2.  Remove the dried mushrooms from the stock,  set the stock aside, and chop into bite-sized pieces if necessary. Turn the heat under the skillet to medium-high, and add the last tablespoon of oil. Add the speck to the pan, along with the fresh mushrooms, the rehydrated dried mushrooms, the shallots and the garlic.  Cook until the fresh mushrooms give up their liquid. 

3. Add the creme fraiche, the vermouth, and 1 cup of the reserved stock. Add the marjoram, and season with the salt and pepper to taste. Cook uncovered until there is only about 1 cup of liquid left in the skillet. 

4. Carefully spoon the speck and mushroom mixture over the chicken, and pour over any remaining juices. Cover the baking dish with either a lid or foil, and place in the oven. Bake about 40 minutes. 

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