as luck would have it: prosciutto wrapped chicken breasts stuffed with fontina cheese

It is hard to say that I feel lucky today, when so many others in Colorado have woken this morning to lost homes, displaced families and pets, and the overwhelming task of rebuilding very literally from the ground up.  But today, thankfully, I think everyone in Boulder is breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Yesterday afternoon, dark clouds hopeful with rain cast their shadows down upon the city as they bunched up thickly and blanketed the hazy skies.  Over the Flatirons, it was difficult to discern the friendly clouds from the unwelcome plumes of opaque smoke, but as the day wore on and a cooler breeze picked up, fat drops of rain finally squeezed their way out.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see inclement weather, and as the drops started to ping-pong down on the streets I couldn’t resist walking outside to let them hit my forehead and trickle cooly down my face.

The finally cooler temperatures, combined with the rain and the unwavering and incredible support from our local firefighters, has paid off, and with the fire 30% contained last night, the pre-evacuation notices have been loosened and lifted on the residential areas that were most threatened.  This morning, the smoke plumes I can see from our doorstep have turned to smaller wispy tendrils, and it seems as though we have gotten very, very, lucky.  

I am breathing a lot easier today – both literally, and figuratively.  The air no longer smells like a campfire, and with an afternoon flight booked into Salt Lake City, I am packing up only my bag for a weekend wedding, instead of our car filled with all of the valuables, personal items, and things with sentimental value we could possibly fit.  Unfortunately, for many others, their Thursday morning is panning out quite differently.  One must only flick a station to see horrific images that look like scenes from Armageddon playing out right now in Colorado Springs, where the Waldo Canyon fire is raging and has thus far burned over three-hundred homes to the ground, and has evacuated and displaced over thirty-thousand people.  The High Park Fire near Fort Collins, the largest in the state and which has been burning since June 9th, has destroyed over two-hundred fifty homes, and is still burning, though it is estimated to be almost seventy-five percent contained.  There will surely be much more destruction to be discovered as the days wear on, and my heart absolutely shatters for the friends, neighbors, parents, pets, and families that these fires have affected; the people who must face today feeling like the unluckiest of them all.

If I know anything thus far about Colorado though, I know that she is strong, and that she is full of the best type of people – supportive and helpful folk who are fiercely proud of their home state and who will not stand by and watch their neighbors suffer.  The next few days, weeks, and months will surely be the hardest that many of her residents will ever have to endure, but if everyone – and not just those in Colorado – extends a helping hand and understanding heart, getting back on their feet will be much easier than doing it alone.

As I get ready for a weekend of fun with friends in Deer Valley, I do feel almost guilty to be able to set off for a carefree weekend with my home still intact, and all of the earthly possessions I’ve managed to collect in my just (barely) shy of thirty years safe and sound.  I’m really looking forward to a few days spent with friends, but also looking forward to returning home, and doing our part to help those in need, where we can.  In the spirit of keeping this simple, here is a favorite dinner we had this week; chicken breasts stuffed with soft fontina cheese, wrapped in thinly sliced salty prosciutto, and then sauteed till the cheese is oozy and melting and the prosciutto is golden, slightly crisped, and savory.

It’s an easy dish, one that is very reminiscent of a heavier ham-and-cheese-stuffed Cordon Bleu, but one that manages to stay light by using just little bit of each ingredient, and high quality ones, at that.  Instead of stuffing the chicken with ham, prosciutto wrapped tightly around the breasts creates not only a barrier to help seal in the cheese, but also a layer of moisture and flavor that boosts the plain chicken breasts and adds a wonderful saltiness.  The breasts are stuffed with just the right amount of wonderful melted fontina, so that each bite gets a little bit, and you aren’t left feeling heavy or overly cheesy.  (But let’s face it….is overly cheesy even possible?!)

I love dishes that are equally at home on the weeknight dinner table as they are at a dinner party, and this is one of those that is great to have in your back pocket for such times.  It goes well with simple pairings – sauteed kale or spinach, or even a pile of lightly seasoned roasted or grilled vegetables.  It’s simple, but it’s elegant, and is so easy to make and prepare – perfect fare for this hot Summer, and something that I will continually remind myself I am lucky to have made in my own, safe, home.

If you’d like to help the victims of the fires, there are ways to donate financially and materially.  Here is a website that details the exact organizations responding to each fire and in each region – they are all reputable national organizations, and the site details all the ways you can help – HelpColorado.org

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Fontina
Serves 4

This is a super simple dish that takes less than thirty minutes to prepare, but still is chic enough to serve at a dinner party. Be sure to let your chicken come up to room temperature before you start cooking, at least 30 minutes and up to an hour, to ensure that the breasts cook evenly and quickly.

Thinly sliced prosciutto works best for this dish, as it stays delicate and thin when it cooks and adheres to the breast. I buy my prosciutto at Whole Foods, and if you buy it similarly from a butcher, make certain they separate each slice with a sheet of parchment – otherwise it will glom together and become a great big mess. If you buy the pre-sliced type, the texture won’t be as delicate, but it will still work fine. If you can’t find fontina, ask your cheesemonger for something similar, or go with another cheese that melts well – gruyere, raclette, or even swiss would all work wonderfully and taste great.

I served this simply, over a bed of kale that I sauteed in a bit of butter and olive oil and finished off with a drizzle of honey. I recommend serving it with something similar (like sauteed spinach), which will act as a bed for all of the wonderful juices and oozy cheese.

4 chicken breasts, room temperature
4 oz fontina cheese, cut into 8 evenly sized pieces
8 thin slices of prosciutto
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
8 toothpicks
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Using a very sharp knife, carefully make an incision in the side of each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through to the other side, to effectively create a deep pocket. Season the chicken breasts all over (including inside the pocket) with the salt and pepper.

Stuff two pieces each of the cheese into each pocket, angling them so that they fit inside snugly (each breast will be stuffed with 1 oz total of cheese). Then, carefully and gently wrap two prosciutto slices around each breast, carefully overlapping them in the middle, and pressing down on the ends gently so that they adhere to each other. Using two toothpicks per breast, gently pierce them through prosciutto on the very edges of the cut pocket to seal the pocket shut.

Heat a heavy oven-proof skillet (I like cast iron) over medium high heat, and add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the wrapped breasts carefully to the pan (I place the ‘top’ of the breasts down in this stage – that is, the side of the breast I want facing up on the plate), and cook the breasts for 5 minutes, until the prosciutto is golden brown and any chicken showing through is crisped and golden. Flip the breasts and cook for 5 minutes more, and then place the skillet in the oven to gently finish cooking them through, 2-5 more minutes depending on the thickness of your breasts. (Carefully peek inside the thickest part of one of the breasts to ensure that the flesh is opaque and no longer translucent.) Take care not to overcook the breasts – smaller pieces will not need much time in the oven to finish off.

Serve immediately.

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4 responses to “as luck would have it: prosciutto wrapped chicken breasts stuffed with fontina cheese

  1. I’ve been following the fires in Colorado very closely….I grew up in Colorado Springs and went to college in Boulder, so have dear friends and family in both! Just heartbreaking. Especially to watch my hometown burn down. Some of my friends down there were given 5 minutes to vacate their homes! I’m so so so glad that the Boulder fire situation is on the up and up! And I couldn’t agree more with what you said about Colorado’s strength. I second your shout-out to our amazing firefighters! What incredible people. Sorry for rambling, but yay for Colorado!! Perhaps my favorite place in the world. Sending thoughts, prayers, and a rain dance or two over to those mountains! :)

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