Tue Oct 23, 2012
I've never hidden my general disdain for skinless, boneless chicken breasts since the beginning of this blog. Unless it's being pounded, breaded, and fried into chicken schnitzel, this piece of poultry rarely finds it way into my kitchen since there are so many tastier options available—like chicken thighs. Still, that doesn't mean this dry, tasteless cut can't be fixed. Case in point, take this chicken involtini.
To fix chicken breasts, first we must break down the problems. None is more troubling than the way too oft dry and cardboard texture. The problem here is cooking chicken breasts to FDA policing guidelines of 165 degrees will pretty much always result in a dry breast. I'm personal not scared from a slightly undercooked breast in the name of deliciousness, but I know many (including the wife) who would disagree. For some insurance toward a juicy piece of chicken, a brine is in store. A salty brine for only thirty minutes will add enough moisture into the breast that it can safely be fully cooked and still remain juicy.
Next problem in need of solving is uneven cooking. A breast is thicker at one end than the other by nature, and in making sure that thicker end is fully cooked, the thinner end will inevitably over cook. A step I take to correct this whenever I cook chicken breasts is to pound out the meat to an even thickness, which then results in even cooking.
Finally, there comes the question of flavor. The brine adds some saltiness into the meat, but it's still fairly lackluster in my opinion. For this recipe, I turned to the tastiest of the tasty for help—the pig. A lone slice of salty and rich prosciutto was laid atop each flattened breast, along with provolone and basil.
The whole affair was tied up into a neat little roll, satisfying another love of mine—rolled meats.
On the grill, it's extra important to keep an eye on chicken. While we have brined, flattened, and rolled, there is still the very real possibility of over cooking, which can happen quickly and destroy all of the work put in thus far. So keep an instant read thermometer handy and pull that chicken off right when it hits between 155-160 degrees (it'll carryover cook to 165).
Hey, and look what we've created here, an awesome piece of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Put all together, this chicken involtini tasted like a more complex, more delicious chicken parm. All the classic flavors were there—tomato sauce, cheese, chicken—but done in a more sophisticated way. The provolone was creamy with a little sharpness, the prosciutto nice and salty, and the chicken tender and juicy. When mixed with some marinara and basil, it had everything that makes a really plate-lickin' Italian-American meal.
Chicken Involtini with Prosciutto and Basil
Adapted from Weber's Way to Grill by Jamie Purviance.
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 30 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 12 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 57 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Brine
- 2 quarts cold water
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1/8 cup white sugar
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 8 ounces each, tenders removed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 very thin slices prosciutto
- 4 thin slices provolone cheese, halved
- 8 large basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 cups good-quality tomato sauce
- In a large bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup salt and white sugar in cold water until completely dissolved to make the brine. Place in chicken breasts in brine. Place in the refrigerator and let brine 30 to 60 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place 1 chicken breast in a large Ziploc bag and seal. Using a the flat side of a tenderizer or rolling pin, pound chicken to 1/4 inch thick. Remove chicken from bag and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.
- Season chicken all over with 1 teaspoon salt, granulated garlic, and black pepper. Lay chicken smooth side down and lay 1 piece of prosciutto, 2 half slices of provolone, and 2 basil leaves on top of each breast. Roll chicken into a tight roll and tie together each piece with 2 pieces of butcher twine.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill the chicken over medium heat, keeping the lid closed as much as possible, until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes, turning a quarter turn every 3 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.
- While the chicken rests, heat tomato sauce in a small pot over medium-high heat until warmed through. Remove the twine from the chicken pieces, cut into slices, and serve warm on a pool of sauce. Garnish with torn pieces of basil.