Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Parmigiano Reggiano - and where it led

My favorite cheese store in the Dallas area is Sigels - on Inwood Rd. and Beltline in Addison. The heart and soul is Theresa Magee who stores wonderful cheeses and is always ready with a story (or 3). The Saturday before Thanksgiving she cracks a wheel of aged Parmigiano Reggiano and gives all the assembled company a taste. This year it was a 7 year old wheel. Of course Madame and I had to be there. Naturally, while we were there, we had to taste what was on offer and buy some other cheeses too. We came away with some beautiful Colston Basset Stilton, an Epoisse, and of course the some of the Parmigiano Reggiano. It was the Stilton that provided inspiration for Monday's dinner, though.

I had been recently to the Dallas Farmers' Market as well and had bought some rather disappointing pears. So, the question was "How do I make the pears edible, and incorporate them into a dinner?" With the Stilton it was a no brainer. Poach the pears (the left over red wine from the night before helped here), toast some walnuts, make a simple salad, and pan cook chicken breasts, using the pear poaching liquid as the sauce for the chicken. Shopping time (for the salad ingredients and chicken 35 minutes), prep+cooking time 80 minutes. The pears were poaching while I was at the store buying the salad and the chicken.

Ingredients:
3 firm pears
1/2 bottle dry red wine 6 oz Port
1 dried red chile pepper
1T Sugar
5 oz walnuts (toasted)
2 oz Stilton (could use other blue cheese)
Assorted salad leaves
3T Vinaigrette (made with a mild vinegar and no onion/garlic)
2 Chicken breasts (skin and bone on)
1T Canola or other neutral oil

Method:
Peal and core the pears - I use a melon baller from the bottom of the pear to core them, leaving them whole. Bring the red wine, port, sugar, and chile to a simmer, and lower in the pears. Poach for about 30 minutes. Turn the pears over after about 20 minutes to ensure they are poached evenly.

When the pears are poached, remove and reserve the poaching liquor.

Toast the walnuts until slightly crunchy on the outside. Be careful, they burn easily.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 - the chicken breasts will finish in the oven.

Remove the bones and the tenderloin from the chicken breasts. (I buy the breasts with bone and skin because I want the skin). Save the tenderloins and bones for another use - I freeze them and make stock, but then I am a bit compulsive! Pat the chicken breasts dry and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. The breasts need to be dry or they don't brown properly.

Add the oil to a hot skillet (preferably not non-stick). When the oil is showing wisps of smoke add the chicken breasts skin side up to the hot oil and sear for about 3-4 minutes. Flip the chicken over and sear the second side. Once the chicken has seared on both sides, transfer to the oven and cook until done. This depends on size of chicken breasts and their starting temperature, but for the cold, medium sized breasts that I used it was about 7 minutes in the oven.The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 185 for poultry.

Remove the chicken from the skillet, and leave to rest - covered with foil. While the chicken is resting, empty most of the chicken fat from the skillet, and then deglaze with the reserved poaching liquor. Reduce the liquor to around 3/4 cup - it should become quite syrupy. Transfer the chicken back to the skillet and coat with the sauce.

Assemble the sliced pears, Stilton, and walnuts on a plate. Make a small pile of the salad leaves, and drizzle the vinaigrette over. Take the chicken out of the pan, remove the skin and slice the breasts across the grain in 1/2 inch slices. Place the hot chicken on top of the dressed salad leaves, and serve.

For further eye appeal, some redness - maybe some cherry tomatoes or roasted red pepper would be appropriate.

Serve with the same red wine as in the poaching liquid.

1 comment:

Judy said...

Hi Chris - We are enjoying reading your blog. Thanks for all the tips. Always, Judy & Rocco