Inspiration is a wonderful thing. When you think of it, to inspire means to 'influence with an animating, quickening or exalting influence'. When it comes to cooking, I can get inspired just about anywhere. Sometimes my inspiration comes from a food item I've spied or read about, the season, a specific location, an event or something that has piqued my curiosity. The inspiration for Prosciutto Wrapped Greek Chicken Breasts came from a local restaurant my husband took me to for Valentine's Day. I've come to realize that going out to dinner on Valentine's Day might be the worse evening to dine out. Most restaurants have a pre-set menu which severely limits your choices. They do this so that they can get as many people as they can in and out as quickly as possible thereby capitalizing on the occasion. Being herded like cattle to sit and eat with very few options and finish quickly so that another couple could experience then same treatment sort of takes the romance right out of the evening....pretty much defeats the purpose if you ask me.
This past Valentine's Day, my husband made reservation at an exciting new restaurant who's claim was that they are 'a little piece of the Mediterranean Riveria transplanted to Water Street, St. John's'. I checked the reviews online and people raved about their lunches and brunches so I was really looking forward to checking this new place out. I will refrain from naming the restaurant in this blog simply because my experience wasn't particularly good and in fact, I was left more than a little disappointed. I suspect this beautiful little restaurant fell victim to the whole herd 'em in, herd 'em out philosophy many restaurants fall for on Valentine's Day but the fact of the matter is, the Arrancini, (which is a Sicilian treat of rice balls stuffed with cheese, ragu or tomato sauce, rolled in bread crumbs and fried), I ordered for my appetizer was cold in the middle and the mozzarella filling was one big chilly lump wrapped in tepid rice served with some mediocre marinara sauce. For my main, I chose the Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken. The prosciutto was dry and brittle and the chicken inside was underseasoned and equally dry. My thought was that it was made en masse well ahead of time and then simply dried out on re-heating. My husband had the Roasted Red Pepper Bisque that was admittedly very good. For his main course he had the Alberta AAA Rib Eye with au jus, garlic mash and asparagus. His steak was overcooked, there was no au jus, the garlic mash was actually garlic smashed, (the texture for which was a bit unpleasant) and the asparagus was limp and sad. For dessert, we shared the Chocolate Platter and my only complaint there was that I tried the spicy chocolate truffle first and it was so spicy, I couldn't taste anything else after that. We were in and out of there in 45 minutes and just under $210.00 poorer. I was more than a tad disappointed with the food but inspired nonetheless to try my hand at Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breasts a la ME!
Given the dryness of the chicken I had on Valentine's Day, I decided I would stuff my chicken breasts with something moist and yummy. I considered mozzarella, spinach, pesto and then decided to roast a red pepper, chop it up with some black olives and add a little fresh basil and feta cheese. I rinsed off a red pepper, cut it in half lengthwise, removed the seeds and membrane, massaged it with extra virgin olive oil and then pressed it cut side down onto a baking sheet. I broiled it in the oven for about 15-20 minutes and when it was blackened, I removed it and placed it in a zipper lock baggie to cool. By doing this, the skin would be easy to just rub off using my thumbs. When it was cooled and skinned, I chopped the roasted red pepper into small pieces and added it to a small bowl with 1/4 c. chopped black olives, a few leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped, and about 1/8 c. crumbled feta cheese.
Using a sharp knife, I cut a small slit into the thickest end of the chicken breasts and gently using the knife and my fingers, made a pocket big enough to stuff each chicken breast with about 2 Tablespoons of the roasted red pepper filling. I covered my cutting board with some plastic wrap, laid two pieces of prosciutto, overlapped, onto the plastic, placed one stuffed chicken breast on top and rolled the breast up with the prosicutto.
When all of the chicken breasts had been stuffed and rolled, I placed them in a baking pan and preheated my oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven was heating up, I peeled and chopped one medium sized celery root into equal size chunks and brought that to boil in a medium sized saucepan and let it gently boil until fork tender, about 10 minutes.
Don't these Prosciutto Wrapped Greek Chicken Breasts look good, just sitting there, patiently waiting for the oven to heat up?
This is what they looked like 15 minutes later! The aroma was phenomenal! Buthow would they taste?
I had to finish off my Celery Root Puree first before I could find out so I drained off the boiled celery root, put it in the blender, added 1/3 c. milk, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese and pureed it all until it was smooth and silky. Celery Root Puree is one of my husband's favorite side dishes and he always comments that he doesn't understand why more people haven't tried celery root. Celery root, also known as celeriac, is rich in vitamins A, C, K and E, essential oils, carotene, microelements and other nutrients and has and has so many health benefits, I could do a whole blog on celery root alone. (Wait now...I did! "Celery Root: The Ugly Duckling of the Vegetable World!"). Suffice to say that celery root is jam packed with goodness but it's also an excellent alternative to mashed potatoes or other starches, boosts metabolism and has a unique, wonderful flavour that marries very well with just about any protein cooked any way.
I was uber anxious to slice into the chicken breast to see if stuffing it with the roasted red pepper, olives, feta basil deliered on keeping the chicken moist and I wasn't disappointed! The flavour of the chicken breast was divine and the prosciutto surrounding the breasts was only slightly crisp, retaining that wonderful silky flavour that only prosciutto brings.
When I set out to develop this recipe, I got a little stuck on what to actually call it. Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Roasted Red Peppers, Black Olives, Feta and Basil, Wrapped in Prosciutto was just a smidge to lengthy of a title and I figured folk would think if it took that long to read, just imagine how long it would take to make! I coulda called it meat stuffed with gooey goodness wrapped in meat, which sounds absolutely divine to me, but I doubted that would have 'universal appeal'. Hence why I went with Prosciutto Wrapped Greek Chicken Breasts...still a tad lengthy but it gives a clear description of what you can expect.
You don't have to be a trained chef to cook restaurant-worthy meals. Believe it or not, and it's quite likely it's blatantly apparent, but I have no culinary training. I'm a self-taught, home cook who's key ingredient in everything she makes is inspiration. With any luck at all, in turn I can inspire others to do the same thing.