Fridge "Mystery Box" #2

The past few weeks of September have been a whirlwind of sorts, and I have been eating out more often than cooking in my kitchen. Last week I made a trip to Trader Joes and stocked up on a bunch of chicken, pork tenderloin, bacon, pancetta, spinach, garlic, cream, "basic staples", but I didn't get around to using them. So it was about time last night that I did a once-over on my fridge to create a "Mystery Box" of ingredients for dinner.

From my fridge and cupboard, I pulled organic-free range chicken breasts, a leftover bag of sun dried tomatoes, diced pancetta, baby spinach, heavy cream, garlic, panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, a leftover half a lemon, and chicken stock. I had some fusilli pasta and figured that would be a nice starch for the meal. So, I thus concocted:

Panko-Parmesan Crusted Chicken Paillards - Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce with Pancetta - Fusilli Pasta

Best part? Aside from boiling the pasta, this is a one-pot dish. And, yes for anyone who REALLY follows this web site, my last mystery box also had chicken, and I made it into paillards; it's not that I am a freak about chicken or cooking it the same way, rather take that this technique is THAT easy and simple to follow and is always a great way to change up a simple chicken breast.

First, I started with my pancetta. As always, even with bacon, I start the pork in a cold, non-stick pan to slowly render out the delicious fat from the pork belly. I had about 1/4C total left over in my fridge. Cook the pancetta over medium heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove pancetta from pan and reserve (caution: you will be tempted, as I am [and Brett was] to eat all of the pancetta bits before adding them back to the dish. Please try to restrain yourself b/c it REALLY adds depth to the final dish.)

Rendering out the pancetta:

Once it's cooked, reserve it (and don't touch!)

Rendered pork fat. Will add flavor to the chicken and the spinach sauce:

While I cooked the pancetta, I trimmed up my chicken breasts and sliced them in half horizontally. I have a sharp boning knife that I keep around, but you can do this with any sharp knife (though I would suggest not using a serrated knife). I like to do this because the chicken cooks up faster. Technically, the use of the word "paillard" means to pound out the protein until it is really thin, but I opted not to whip out the plastic wrap and mallet this evening.

Slicing the chicken horizontally:

Of course you end up with four "halves", but I ended up using three for the dinner:

Next, I put together my "breading" station: about 1/2 C AP flour, one egg with a little water whisked together, and equal parts parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs.

1/2 and 1/2 panko and parmesan:

Dredge chicken in flour, pat off, dredge through egg mixture, then dip in parmesan/panko mix.

Reheat pan with pancetta drippings and add some olive oil to coat bottom of pan; make sure pan is very hot to create good crust with panko (heat on medium high).

Flip chicken after about 6-7 minutes when browned; be careful not to burn the panko.

Cook chicken about another 6 minutes and remove from pan; rest on paper towels while finishing rest of sauce.

I prefer to slice my garlic rather than mincing it so anyone enjoying the meal can taste the essence of garlic but can pick out the slivers if they don't want to eat them.

Drain off some of the fat from cooking the chicken and add the garlic, cooking over medium heat, until fragrant and slightly browned.

I then add about 1/3 C of chicken broth to the pan to deglaze the browned bits; reduce the liquid until almost dry and then add the spinach to saute; season with salt and pepper.

Once the spinach is completely wilted, add the sun dried tomatoes. Toss together.

Add about 1 C heavy cream and bring to a boil; reduce to sauce consistency and then season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon to brighten all of the flavors.

Oh, and don't fotget to add that pancetta back in!


Not the best lighting, but it was a delicious concoction using ingredients that were on hand an ready to be used. The panko crust on the chicken was light, and the parmesan was cut with the acid from the lemon juice and sun dried tomatoes. And who can pass up spinach and cream (as I am a huge fan of creamed spinach...) WITH THE ADDITION of pancetta? The pasta was the perfect balance of a basic starch to the blending of flavors from the sauce and chicken. The whole thing took about 30 minutes, tops, and left us both extremely satisfied.

Oh, and of course I had some wine - if you can get your hands on some Sullivan Vineyards Red Ink, you have the makings for a perfect meal.


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