Saturday, March 15, 2014

Chicken Breasts with Porcini Crema and Morels

This is a recipe about taking something that is ordinary, a skinless chicken  breast, and turning it into something extraordinary. Two of the ingredients are the gods' greatest gifts to umami...the porcini and morel mushrooms. These will be taken to new heights with the addition of some butter, onion, garlic Madeira, shallots, thyme and heavy cream.

Inspired by fellow CrossFitter Jason More, Thursday I cleared a path to my grill. I bought two enormous Porterhouse steaks with the intention of grilling them up on Friday. But the wind turned brutal and was gusting up to 50 mph yesterday afternoon. So I ended up pan-searing them in my kitchen. Outdoor grilling will have to wait.

So as long I'm am still constrained to cooking in the kitchen, might as well make something extraordinary. I came across a new recipe in the Wine Spectator that arrived at my house yesterday. The recipe was for halibut, but I don't like fish. So I've adapted it for chicken breast. Truth be told, the sauce recipe would probably work well with any kind of white protein.

The sauce recipe is courtesy of Fabio Trabocchi, owner of the restaurant called Fiola in Washington DC. He is a native of the Marche region in Italy. By the age of 16, he was apprenticing in a three-star Michelin restaurant, Gualtiero Marchesi in Milan. Make this sauce and you will come to greatly appreciate his artistry! This recipe serves four.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 pound fresh porcini mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 medium white onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 cup Madeira
1 fresh bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 medium shallot, minced
1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 pound small, fresh morel mushrooms
4, 8-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat


  1. In a wide sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the porcini in a single layer, working in batches if necessary, until the mushrooms are nicely roasted. Remove and drain excess oil.
  2. In a wide sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until it foams. Add the onion and garlic and sweat them until they are soft and translucent. Deglaze the pan with the Madeira and reduce by one-third. Add the bay leaf and roasted mushrooms and stir to combine.
  3. Heat the heavy cream in another sauce pan until warm and then add it to the mushrooms. Simmer until the flavors are blended and the cream is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a wide sauté pan and add the shallots and thyme. Cook until the shallots are softened and translucent. Add the morels and toss to coat with the shallots. Cook until the morels are slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Season the chicken breasts on all sides. Heat a grill or cast iron pan over medium high heat. Brush the grill with oil and cook the breasts, 2-3 minutes per side.
  6. Spoon the warmed porcini crema among the four plates, then top with the chicken breast. Then spoon the morels over the chicken. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve. 

Wine pairing: Barbaresco

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