Last night, Dennis, Kylie and I had our good friends over for dinner. Elizabeth is a dear friend that I met when our girls were in first grade. We volunteered together for the Holiday Wonderland in Del Mar for several years and our girls were Brownies and Girl Scouts together. It’s so nice to get together with the Laskers. Dennis and Paul always have so much to talk about, as do Elizabeth and I, and Kylie and Rachel always enjoy their time together. When I first met Elizabeth, we discovered that we share a love of cooking and entertaining and formed our dinner club, The Del Mar Dinner Club. We meet quarterly with two other couples and always have a great time getting together and enjoying what the host and hostess have prepared when it is their turn to shine. Stay tuned on Elizabeth and me in the year or so to come. We’ve been chatting about starting a tutorial blog on cooking once our girls head to college. It should be fun!
When I was trying to decide what to make for dinner last night, I wandered the aisles at Trader Joe’s for some inspiration. I decided I wanted to make chicken and in some way incorporate fresh dates. As my wheels started turning, I decided I’d throw some fresh sage in my cart, shredded gruyere cheese, fresh garlic (of course), lemons and pancetta. I decided prosciutto would be what I wrap around my concoction. I grabbed a bottle of balsamic salad dressing and the ingredients for my chicken were decided.
This is what I did: I sprinkled kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides of my chicken. I then marinated six chicken breasts in a bottle of balsamic salad dressing and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. While the chicken was marinating, I sauteed four ounces of pancetta in a half tablespoon of olive oil and let it drain on paper towel. I chopped 8 ounces of dates, removing the pits. Next, I chopped four large cloves of garlic and 16 sage leaves. I also zested one lemon and set my gruyere aside.
I was now ready to stuff my chicken breasts. I cut a slit on the top of each breast, forming a pocket, being careful not to slice all the way through. In each pocket, I first placed 1/4 teaspoon of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of sage, 1/8 teaspoon of lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon of pancetta. On top of that, I placed 1 tablespoon of chopped dates and a tablespoon and a half of shredded gruyere cheese. Next, I sprinkled a small amount of lemon zest and a tad more sage. I then squeezed lemon juice from the zested lemon over the entire chicken breast. The last thing I did was to wrap two slices of prosciutto around each breast. I placed these on a foil lined baking sheet with the two halves of the lemon I used and loosely wrapped the chicken. I wanted to bake them covered in foil to keep them moist. I baked the chicken in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. (After 40 minutes, I pulled the foil back and let the chicken finish for the last five minutes uncovered.
I can honestly say, this is the best chicken I have ever made. The flavors melded together so well and all stood out without any one of them being overpowering. I am so proud of this recipe I came up with, it was a big hit! I will definitely be making this again, many times.
I decided my side dishes would be mashed potatoes, green beans, and a simple salad. For the potatoes, I peeled them and set them aside in a pot of cold water until I was ready to boil them. Once they were done boiling, I drained them and added my ingredients to mash. I added two tablespoons of butter and about 1/4 cup of light sour cream. I mashed them and added the leftover gruyere and garlic I didn’t use for the chicken, added salt and pepper and a very small amount (maybe 1/8 teaspoon) of fresh sage. I just wanted a tiny bit of color, hardly noticeable. These potatoes turned out so tasty!
For my green beans, I started with a bag of frozen green beans (16 ounce). I sauteed them with one and a half large shallots and olive oil. I only added salt and pepper for seasoning.
For my salad, I used Romaine lettuce (I love the crunch), 16 ounces of grape tomatoes that I halved, half of a large shallot, and shaved asiago with rosemary cheese. I topped this salad with Trader Joe’s Sundried Tomato and Cheese Toasts (Yum, they are so good!). For the dressing, I used the Trader Joe’s bottled Romano Caesar dressing.
I went simple with my appetizers. Ina says you only need a few things, after all. I took a wedge of Camembert cheese and topped it with a drizzle of honey, sprinkled dried thyme on top of that and added spiced candied pecans that I chopped up. This was served with water crackers. I also put out a bowl of Vegetable chips (Trader Joe’s brand, of course).
Dinner was served with white wine, it was a perfect night.
Until next time, Kris