Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Valentine's Day Dinner for 2, under $15

In our cooking classes we usually teach dishes that students enjoy for everyday eating. We were going to do soups for our class this week, but our smart students had a better idea: one week before Valentine's Day, they wanted a nice date night meal. We were more than happy to oblige, because we think cooking for other people is one of the best ways to show how much you love them. Though this is a very elegant meal and sure to impress, it costs under $15 for 2 people.

Our menu included chicken rolled with fontina, prosciutto, and, sage served with roasted asparagus and an incredibly easy but totally cool dessert of frozen berries with a hot white chocolate sauce. We have included all these recipes below, as well as a simple recipe for polenta. Polenta makes a nice side dish but you can make some rice cooked in chicken stock or mashed potatoes instead, if you prefer.

It's very important to have all your ingredients ready before you start assembly of the rolls. Once your hands are covered with chicken is not a good time to try to open a package of prosciutto and tease apart the slices.

Pulling off a menu like this takes a little timing. Here's the order to do the recipe steps to assure that it all comes together at the same time. The dessert takes so little time that we suggest you wait until after you and your honey have eaten the chicken to prepare it.
  1. Make the lemon vinaigrette.
  2. Prep the asparagus so all you have left to do is put them in the oven.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  4. Assemble the stuffed chicken rolls.
  5. Brown the chicken and put in the oven.
  6. Cook the polenta. Cover and set aside while you finish the rest.
  7. Put the asparagus in the oven.
  8. Remove the chicken, slice, and dress with vinaigrette.
  9. Remove asparagus from oven.
  10. Plate by putting a big spoonful of polenta on the plate, lay on half of the chicken slices. Dress with additional vinaigrette. Add asparagus.
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Fontina and Prosciutto, with Lemon Vinaigrette Sauce
Serves 2

For the vinaigrette:
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
A pinch kosher salt
A pinch freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil

For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
2 slices prosciutto (1 ounce)
1 ounce Fontina cheese, coarsely grated
2 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
About 6 wooden toothpicks
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Make the vinaigrette:
Combine the vinegar, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.

Make the stuffed chicken breasts:
With a sharp knife, make a horizontal slit, about ¾ through each chicken breast. Open each breast like a book, then place it in a plastic bag and pound with a rolling pin or a mallet to ⅛” thickness.  Lay each chicken breast out on a flat surface, and top each breast with a slice of prosciutto, half the grated Fontina cheese and half the chopped sage. Roll each breast up and secure with a few toothpicks by threading them through the seam side of each breast.  Pour a bit of olive oil in your hand and coat each breast with it.  Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken in a frying pan set on medium-high heat, turning as needed, until golden brown on all sides.  Place the pan in the oven and cook until cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Remove the breasts to plates, remove the toothpicks, slice cross-wise, and, drizzle each breast with 2 Tablespoons of the vinaigrette; let rest 5 minutes.  Serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2

8 oz. asparagus, rinsed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. You can roast the asparagus with the chicken, as they cook at the same temperature.

Hold the asparagus stalk at the thick end and a couple of inches up the stalk. Then bend the stalk away from you and the stalk will snap where the stalk is no longer fibrous. Put the asparagus on a small-rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss the asparagus to coat well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 5 minutes, turn with tongs, and then roast for another 5 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the asparagus.

(serves 2-3)

1 ½ cups milk or water (it will be creamier made with milk)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ tablespoons butter

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to a slow boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal so the water keeps boiling. A whisk and adding the cornmeal slowly are essential to preventing lumpy polenta.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until polenta is thick, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and butter until well-combined.

Frozen Berries with White Hot Chocolate Sauce
Serves 2

2 oz. white chocolate
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup frozen berries

Combine the chocolate, heavy cream, and vanilla in a heat-proof bowl and either microwave it on medium, 1 minute at a time, or set it over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. About 5 minutes before serving, remove the berries from the freezer and place them on individual serving plates. Ladle the warm chocolate sauce over the berries and serve.

Note: You can either buy frozen berries, or freeze your own by placing berries on a flat tray or plate in one layer. When the berries are fully frozen, keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Larger berries, such as strawberries, do not freeze well.

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