Friday, July 29, 2011

romesco the stone

I wanted to cook something new and interesting and a little bit special last night, since I've been in something of a rut with my old standbys (good as they are). A little bit of skimming over on Epicurious led me to Chicken Cutlets with Romesco and Serrano Cracklin's, which probably caught my eye because of what appears to be a misplaced apostrophe.*

The dish really appealed to me, though, and I decided I was going to give it a whirl. I even conceded to myself that I would cook exactly from the recipe, which I rarely do -- but romesco has a distinct flavor profile** and, having never experimented with it before, I wanted to do it correctly before I started riffing on it.

I did almost skimp and use pre-made breadcrumbs, but after much deliberation at the grocery store, I caved and bought the baguette. Since the crumbs go into the sauce, dried ones would change the texture, and I realized I couldn't predict exactly how that would turn out. Baguette it was! I even bought new smoked paprika to make sure the old stuff in the cupboard wouldn't deprive the sauce of its depth of flavor.

Sherry vinegar, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found. I don't understand how a well-stocked store that carried several different kinds of high-end, infused, and/or otherwise esoteric vinegars didn't carry a simple basic like sherry vinegar, but oh well; barrel-aged red-wine vinegar stood in nicely. I also had to substitue prosciutto for the serrano, although the recipe itself sanctions that, so I didn't fret too much about it.

So I came home and got out the mini-prep. I whirred, I measured, I toasted, I chopped, I pounded***, I dredged****, I sautéed, and then we ate.

Oh, boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

The fresh breadcrumbs and parsley on the chicken kept it incredibly tender. The smoky, nutty sauce -- enhanced by crisp bits of salty prosciutto -- provided a complex base for the chicken, soft lettuce, and herbal parsley, which sang with brightness. A complete stunner of a dish, and exactly the kind of thing I wanted to make for a just-a-bit-special night in.

I can't wait for this to become one of the old standbys.

*I suppose it's because "cracklin'" in the singular uses an apostrophe to show the missing "g," but putting it into the plural makes it look like a possessive to me. Darn grammatical cognitive dissonance!

**As much as anything can that of course has regional variations all over the place, and about which people argue that only their region's is the "true" version, of course.

***Yes, I could have bought chicken cutlets, but it's so much more fine to buy the regular chicken breasts and whack the hell out of 'em, don't you think?

****I was confused that the recipe didn't recommend dredging in an egg-wash or the like, but although some of the crumb mixture of course fell off, I think the freshness of the bread allowed them to stick better than I expected.

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