Right about now, I wish I rented. Oh, how I long for a building supervisor or property manager to come and make my home all shiny and new. I wouldn’t have a bathroom in various stages of completion, nor would I have paint brushes and screwdrivers scattered about my house. I wouldn’t have moulding laid across the length of my kitchen table, and I would have a shiny new toilet that was actually functional, rather than waiting for one last piece that we discovered we needed at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night (of course). I wouldn’t have sore knees from laying new floors and I wouldn’t have tendonitis in my elbow from repeated motions of painting, sanding, scraping, repeat. I’d have my weekends back to laze about as I wish, and I would return to my beloved kitchen to prepare a hearty fall meal, rather than reheating leftovers from previous quick-hit dinners at 10:30 p.m. when we finally called it quits for the day.
Now I remember why it has taken me four years to find the motivation to resume my home improvement projects. It does feel good to check things off of the list that has been hanging on my refrigerator since the early days of owning our house. But after several days of non-stop work, I declared a moratorium on bathroom projects and retreated to my kitchen. We needed a decent dinner, and I needed to find a different creative outlet, one with a tastier result. Inhaled dust from sanding patches of joint compound washed down with a cold beer just wasn’t cutting it. We needed sustenance.
When visiting a favorite Italian deli in town several months ago, I stumbled across a small packet of brown powder and upon inspecting the label, found that it read “Porcini Powder” in the gently sloping cursive reminiscent of many grandmothers’ handwriting. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it, but sure enough, into my cart it went. The finely ground dried porcini mushrooms sat in my cabinet for a while, and every time I opened it, I’d look at that little packet and try to decide what to do with it. Suddenly, it hit me.
I thought “Chicken Parmesan” except it wasn’t Chicken Parmesan at all. The recipe starts somewhat similarly – a thin chicken breast, breaded and sautéed until golden brown, then slowly baked in the oven. Traditional breadcrumbs were swapped for panko, then both the panko and flour were infused with equal amounts of the porcini powder to add an earthy richness to the chicken. Instead of bright marinara, I sautéed cremini mushrooms until golden brown, added reconstituted porcini, sherry and fresh thyme, then piled the mixture over the crispy chicken breasts. And in one final swap, I omitted the delicate fresh mozzarella and opted for a creamy, slightly tangy Fontina cheese to melt into the nooks and crannies of the mushrooms crowning the chicken.
The headiness of the porcini infused the crunchy coating on the outside of the chicken and permeated the rich mushroom topping. The Fontina provided just enough creaminess and added to the richness of the dish. It was perfect for fall, perfect for a night of no to-do lists. It gave us a glimpse back into our “normal” lives and evenings. I can’t wait to get back there permanently (with a shiny, pretty bathroom to boot). Give me a paint brush, I have more work to do.
porcini chicken with fontina
recipe: jb’s pour house
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh garlic
1/3 c. dry Sherry
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts pounded to about ½” thickness
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ c. panko
Finely ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 1/3 c. shredded Fontina cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add cremini mushrooms and saute until golden brown, about 8 minutes. As cremini are cooking, bring 1 c. water to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, add porcini mushrooms and let soak for about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid. Roughly chop porcini. Set aside. Once cremini are golden brown, add porcini, garlic and thyme and saute for about 1 minute. Add 1/4 c. reserved porcini liquid and let simmer, scraping bottom of the pan, until liquid has almost completely reduced. Add 1/3 c. dry Sherry and let simmer until liquid has nearly evaporated. Season lightly with salt and pepper, set aside.
Place flour on a large plate or bowl. Add about 1 1/2 Tbsp. porcini powder. Set aside. Place panko on a large plate or bowl. Add about 1 1/2 Tbsp. porcini powder. Set aside. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Dip into egg, shaking off excess, then dredge in panko mixture. Set aside and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.
Place canola oil in a large skillet (can use same skillet as mushrooms, but wipe with a paper towel prior to proceeding) and place over medium high heat. Sear chicken breasts, about 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Divide mushroom mixture and spread evenly across chicken. Top each with about 1/3 c. shredded Fontina cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Serve warm.
*To make your own porcini powder, place dried porcini mushrooms in a food processor or coffee grinder (designated for spice use only) and pulse until finely ground. Be sure to dust porcini lightly prior to processing to remove any grit.
Here’s to your home improvement project!
All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house