Published March 1, 2009.
Italians braise chicken for hours in a rich wine and mushroom sauce. We wanted to keep the flavor but cut the cooking time.
This classic Northern Italian dish simmers fresh porcini, white wine, tomato, and a whole chicken until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and the broth rich and satisfying. However, this doesn’t make it the likeliest candidate for a quick weeknight dinner.
We wanted to distill the essence of this braise into a complex-tasting pan sauce served over simple sautéed chicken cutlets—all in 30 minutes, start to finish.
We started by sautéing eight thinly pounded cutlets in two speedy batches. We then transferred the chicken to a plate, added fresh porcini and minced shallot to the pan, and sautéed them briefly. We deglazed the pan with white wine, tomato paste, and chicken stock, finishing with butter. Even with the earthy savor of porcini in the mix, the sauce tasted weak; plus its consistency was thin, barely clinging to the chicken. Clearly we needed to bump up flavor. But first, we had to get the sauce to coat the chicken. Adding flour during sautéing made the sauce thicker, but it still slid off the cutlets. The solution was to also dredge the cutlets in flour before sautéing, which not only improved browning but also added a rough surface to capture the sauce. As for flavoring our fresh porcini, after trying dried porcini with disappointing results, we remembered a test kitchen trick to increase savory flavor: adding a dash of soy sauce. The natural glutamates found in soy sauce (the compound that gives food savory flavor) are the same compounds that make mushrooms taste meaty. We were afraid tasters might complain about an Asian condiment in an Italian-inspired dish, but all they noticed was deeper porcini flavor—exactly what we wanted. To perfect the sauce, fresh thyme and a shot of lemon juice were stirred in before serving. Ready in just 30 minutes, we had a new chicken dish that was so full of flavor, it tasted like it had been slow-cooked in a traditional Italian kitchen.list of recipes