This week we're sharing the recipe for one of Tony's favorite dishes to prepare at Sarello's: Pollo Tricolore, (pronounced po-lo tree-ca-lor-ray), otherwise known as chicken breast stuffed with roasted red peppers, basil pesto and fontina cheese. When Tony created this dish several years ago, he took his inspiration from the Italian flag, or il Tricolore, and chose ingredients for the "stuffing" that honored the tricolors of red, white and green.
I was curious to know what makes this dish so special for Tony, so I asked him to lay it out for me. "This dish is not only a terrific combination of flavors," he explained, "but it's fast and easy to prepare, I can do most of the work up to a day in advance, it makes a gorgeous plate presentation, and bottom line, people love it."
Let's talk about that dynamic blend of flavors and colors. This chicken specialty boasts a lovely golden brown exterior, made crisp and crunchy from being coated in panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs.
Contrast that with the moist and tender meat inside, which is enhanced by the delicious ooze of ingredients spilling forth: bright green pesto, so fresh and zesty, and reminiscent of summer; smoky, sweet and savory roasted red peppers; and the luxury of tangy, melted fontina cheese. Truly, this is a dish to love.
To make Pollo Tricolore you'll need one six-ounce chicken breast per person. The breasts are sliced in half horizontally, and then pounded into cutlets with a meat mallet to about a quarter-inch thickness. You could also use pork tenderloin and cut the meat into one-inch medallions before pounding flat.
To prepare each breast, take two of the cutlets and lay them flat on a cutting board, overlapping each other by half. In earlier columns we have featured recipes for basil pesto and roasted red peppers, but to save time you can also find decent pre-made versions in our local grocery stores.
Tony likes fontina cheese for this recipe, but provolone, mozzarella (brick-style, not the fresh balls), or any other semi-soft cheese with good melting properties will work, too.
Cut the brick of cheese into one-ounce sticks, allowing one stick per serving. In addition, you'll need one to two strips of roasted red pepper and one tablespoon of pesto for each chicken breast. Try to resist the temptation to overstuff the breasts - doing so could overwhelm the chicken and spoil the elegance of this dish.
Lay the ingredients together on one end of the overlapping cutlets, leaving about a one-inch border along that end and the sides. Starting at the end with the ingredients, roll each breast into a log, tucking the sides in as you roll. For best results, wrap each breast tightly in plastic after rolling, twist the ends to close and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. Not only will this step save you time before the meal, but it will help the breasts better retain their log form.
Before baking in the oven, Tony browns the breasts in a sauté pan with vegetable oil over medium-high heat until golden brown all over. Finish cooking the breasts in a 400-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cheese begins to ooze out. To test for doneness, cut into one breast and make sure the meat inside is white and opaque in color. Carve each breast into slices, transfer to a platter or individual plates, serve and enjoy. Buon Appetito!
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com
Pollo Tricolore (chicken breast stuffed with roasted red peppers, basil pesto and fontina Cheese)
4 large chicken breasts, trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise and pounded to ¼-inch thickness
¼ cup basil pesto (1 tablespoon per breast)
4 pieces Fontina cheese, cut into one-ounce sticks
4-8 strips roasted red peppers
1 cup vegetable or canola oil for frying (extra virgin is not necessary)
Flour for dredging
Egg-wash for dredging: (4 eggs mixed with 2 oz. milk)
Breading for coating:
3 cups Panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Take two of the chicken cutlets and lay flat on a cutting board, overlapping each other by half. Lay ¼ of the fontina cheese, ¼ of the red peppers and ¼ of the pesto in the middle of the chicken cutlets and roll chicken into a log. For best results, wrap each rolled breast tightly in plastic, twist the ends to close and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Dredge each log in flour, then the egg-wash, then the panko breadcrumb mixture, making sure to evenly coat the entire piece. Fry in hot oil over medium-high heat until golden brown on all sides, about one to two minutes total.
Remove from pan and transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Finish cooking the chicken in the oven at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until the outside is a rich, golden brown and the cheese begins to ooze out. Remove one breast and slice open to make sure the meat inside is white and opaque in color.
Carve each breast into slices before serving and transfer to a platter or individual plates. Serve and enjoy!