I have dined at the home of La Quercia Americano prosciutto makers Herb and Kathy Eckhouse, where, of course, prosciutto was on the menu.
On the night of my visit, as we opened the evening’s first bottle of wine Herb sliced more prosciutto than you would think humanly possible to eat. He arrayed it in thin, elegant, unimaginably supple ripples on a huge white oval platter set in the middle of his kitchen island. And of course, we devoured it all.
Later, he wanted us to try a new, not-yet-for-the-market batch batch of prosciutto—a scarlet-colored hunk of meat he had just brought home that day from his plant. As I stood there like a puppy angling for scraps, he tasted the first piece. He wasn’t happy.
“Too salty,” he said, handing me a slice.
Yes, it was salty on first bite, but followed by that unmistakably rich cured pork flavor with waves of mellow rock-candy sweetness. I certainly asked for more—and not out of politeness.
Still, Herb was crushed—it simply was not up to his standards. After tasting a few more slices, he unceremoniously wrapped up the tennis-shoe-sized hunk in a plastic bag and said, “You want it? Take it. Or I’ll throw it away.”
What a gift! I mean, Herb’s second best is still better than anything I’ve had outside of Parma (and his first best rivals anything I’ve had in Parma).
Trouble is, I don’t have a gleaming, pro-quality slicer. I got it home and no matter how I tried to slice it, I couldn’t get it thin enough to enjoy “naked,” as I had at Herb’s. Then I remembered recipes I’ve seen over the years with diced prosciutto, and it wasn’t long before I came up with this recipe.
In fact, if you’re going to cook with prosciutto, I’ve come to believe that dicing the meat is best. While thin, rosy slices can look quite pretty stuffed into or wrapped around meats, the slices can sometimes get leathery and stringy as they cook. Using it diced—as I do here—allows the prosciutto flavor to infuse the meat, while still remaining appetizing and easy to eat when you serve it.
P.S.: Don’t wait until someone hands you a hunk of prociutto to make this great take on roast chicken. It’s perfect for a casual gathering of friends. And while dicing prosciutto can be tedious, the Eckhouses have made it easy—their La Quercia Prosciutto crumbles are widely available.
Makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/3 cup finely diced prosciutto (or packaged prosciutto crumbles)
4 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons softened butter
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1. Combine rosemary and prosciutto on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, chop the two ingredients together, mincing finely and blending well. Tuck mixture under skin of chicken. Rub skin of chicken all over with the softened 2 tablespoons butter; season chicken to taste with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a flame-proof casserole. Roast chicken in a 450 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375; add garlic cloves to pan and roast about 25 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (170F), basting with accumulated juices halfway through this cooking time. Remove chicken to a platter; cover with foil and set aside.
2. Place pan directly over burner on medium-high heat. Carefully add chicken broth and sherry, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan while mincing the roasted garlic with the back of the spoon; Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter to thicken sauce. Serve chicken topped with a little sauce.