Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Provolone Chicken

Grilled chicken can be one of the most boring things around. Brining (see LME Chicken Brine) helps a lot as does marinating in other concoctions.

If you know how to grill chicken, however, salt & pepper are enough to do the job. A little of these sprinkled on the chicken, cooked over a nice fire, works wonders. Now, that all said….

Here’s a recipe that’s quick, easy, and yields a flavorful chicken breast that can be used in multiple ways. There are few ingredients; the prep of this makes the chicken come out great tasting so pay attention. This goes great on top of a green salad, on a bun, or even as a main course with corresponding sides.

A thing about provolone. There’s provolone and then there’s provolone. Domestic provolone tends to be mild in flavor. Here in the US most commercial makers have it in their minds that all provolone is destined for some incarnation of the Italian sub so it has to slice nicely and musn't upset the masses. A hearty, aged provolone is very difficult to slice; it can have the texture of block of Parmesan if it gets old enough. It will have a very sharp – near 5 year cheddar-like – bite and feel like there are patches of salt crystals within, like an aged Gouda. This is often labeled as provolone piccante and is typically aged 4 - 12 months.

THAT, my friends, is provolone.

4 boneless chicken breasts
¼ pound Italian (i.e. imported) sharp provolone
1 TSP Herbs de Provence
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
Juice of ½ a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Take the herbs and add 2 TSP of hot tap water to them. Set aside for 15 minutes to let them rehydrate. While this is going on….

Rinse and pat dry each breast. Using a very sharp, thin knife, insert the knife down the length of the breast from the thick end down ¾ of the way toward the thin end, creating a 1” wide, deep pocket. Cut the provolone into ½” wide ¼” thick strips about half the length of the chicken, two strips per breast.

Add 4 TBS of olive oil add the herbs, garlic, 2 big pinches of salt, 5 cranks of pepper and the lemon juice. Whisk together.

Rub some of the marinade over the cheese strips. Insert two strips of provolone into each breast. [It’s OK if it’s sticking out a little.] Add the breasts to a bowl and cover with the remaining herbed olive oil. Set in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Cook chicken on a grill using the indirect method (on the side of the heat, not over it), with some hickory pieces thrown in for flavor. Place the chicken on the grill and pour the remaining marinade over. Grill closed for about 20 minutes, perhaps longer for thicker pieces.

Goes great on a salad, in a bun, or just on the side.

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