Signature Dish of Gunner

Chicken Breast with Spinach, Mushrooms and Fontina cheese


I developed this dish when living in the Venato region of Conselve, Italy in 1978 after a night out with Italian friends who suggested the Saltambico. I won my now wife's heart with an earlier version when I moved to Albuquerque, NM to work at the Defense Nuclear Agency and met her and her 3 YO daughter. Alas, it was an Asiago cheese from the military commissary instead of Fontina, but still good . I still serve this around our anniversary as our special tradition for 25 years now. This recipe is a fairly healthy departure from the traditional Saltambico or Cordon Bleu style chicken, the ham and cheese smothered in rich cream sauces found in many European regional cooking. This version is very lean, yet rich in flavor. The Fontina cheese adding it's earthy mushroom flavor to the sauté mushrooms and the textural components of the spinach balancing against the chicken.

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts
1/2 lbs Mushrooms; Porcini or Chanterelles are preferred but a Crimini or a white button would suffice just as well.
1/2 lb Fontina cheese (you can substitute Asiago or a Provolone cheese if you cannot find Fontina)
1/2 cup white wine
3 Tablespoons (Tblspn) Extra Virgin Olive or other quality oil
1 tblspn Butter
1 teaspoon (tspn) Oregano
1 tspn Fresh Thyme
1or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tblspn Paprika (your choice of either hot or mild)
Salt and pepper to taste
A 12-16 oz package of pre-washed baby spinach or 16 oz of regular spinach thoroughly washed with stems removed and coarsely chopped.

Heat a skillet, add the EVOO. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste and cook from 8-10 minutes on both sides in the skillet to an internal temp of approx 155-160 degrees, do not overcook as it will dry the chicken out. Remove chicken, cover with foil and place where they will stay warm.

Melt the 1tblspn butter and add 1/2 lb sliced mushrooms to pan. Sauté for 2- 4 minutes until done, stir in the minced garlic, sauté for an additional minute or two. Add the 1/2 cup of white wine, 1 tspn Oregano and 1 tspn of fresh Thyme. Cook until the liquid is reduced by a half, about another 4-5 minutes, this concentrates the flavors. Remove approx 1/2 of the mushrooms to a bowl to top the breasts later . Add the washed spinach to the pan. Cook until wilted, add 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg and the juice of 1/2 lemon to the mushroom sauté, salt to taste, strain any liquid into the bowl with the mushroom mixture you previously set aside, lightly press to remove a bit more liquid. Set this mixture aside with the chicken to stay warm

Turn a broiler to high to preheat.

Arrange the chicken breasts in a shallow oven proof dish or pan, a 9x13 Corning pan is perfect to hold 4 breasts. Place and flatten 1-2 tablespoons of mushroom/spinach mixture on each chicken breast.

Cover each breast with a slice of Fontina cheese and spoon the remaining mushrooms and some of the reserved pan sauce over each breast Place in the preheated broiler until cheese begins to melts and slightly browns on top, remove and sprinkle with paprika.

Serve with a mushroom risotto or a dish of Canellini (Great Northern) beans, Canned are perfectly acceptable if rinsed & well-drained. Seasoned with a mash of garlic, parsley, thyme, olive oil, salt, and pepper. A mixed spring green salad side along with a crisp dry Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps a bit sweeter Chenin Blanc is also a perfect accompaniment.

© Gunner 2006

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