Friends with Food Benefits.
One of the great things about writing about food is that eventually, people seek you out with great things to cook and great wines to drink. So it was that I found myself in possession of a bottle of Garda DOC Spumante, a sparkling wine from the shores of Lago di Garda, the largest lake in Italy. With “A Perfect Pairing from Europe” came two remarkable cheeses from the Veneto region of Italy, more specifically Belluno province. Piave is a cow’s milk cheese made from indigenous Italian cattle breeds. I was given two of the five age designations. The cheese aged from 20 days for Piave Fresh to over 18 months for Piave Extra-Aged (Ora del Tempo) cheese which is used in this recipe.
A recipe with its roots in Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kitchen.
By coincidence, over the Christmas break, Andrew and I were invited to dinner at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. The restaurant is run under the auspices of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and it’s a wonderful place to eat. For dinner that night, I chose the Parmesan Crusted Chicken. This dish shows up on Jean-George’s menus from Central Park West to the Connaught Hotel in London. My friends at A Perfect Pairing from Europe had send along a recipe for Creamy Piave Chicken. I quickly decided to combine the two recipes. Instead of the Parmesan crust, I used the Piave to make a golden cheese topped chicken breast. And while Jean-Georges did not share his recipe for sauce, the Creamy Piave one did—a lovely creamy, lemon-y ‘piccata’ studded with capers. Served with simply boiled potatoes and carrots and some tiny spears of asparagus, the dinner was delicious. And it took all of 30 minutes to make.
Wine Tasting Notes on Garda DOC Spumante.
But first, the wine tasting. The Garda DOC Spumante was tasted by four of us. No one professed to be an oenophile. But we certainly love our sparkling wines! Prosecco is a profound success in this country, no doubt because of its wonderful bubbles and wildly affordable price. Spumante, on the other hand, had a lingering reputation for overt sweetness. The Garda DOC Spumante lived up to its label: Extra Dry. My tasters wrote “bubbly, vivacious, clean…and not too sweet” “Dry and fruity not sweet. Refreshing.” In case you wondered, the difference between Spumante and Prosecco is that the former can be created from a blend of grapes—Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay among them. Prosecco must be made with the glera grape to which other grapes may be added. And Prosecco is made only in the area between the Veneto and Friuli regions of Italy. Our beautiful golden pale wine had notes of “citrus, honey, and apple blossom” or “orange and honey” according to my tasters. It certainly celebratory and very nicely priced at about $15. We first paired with a cheese platter made up of both Piaves, the lovely softer Piave Fresh was crumbly and grainy. The older Piave Extra Aged with nuttier and full-bodied. Both were stand-alone superb.
Here’s the recipe that combined Jean-George’s inspirational Parmesan-Crusted Cheese with A Perfect Pairings “Creamy Piave Chicken”. And after it, some other ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day but always with a flute of Garda DOC Spumante.
Piave-Crusted Chicken Breasts
A delightful Cow's Milk Cheese from Northern Italy encrusts a Chicken Breast in a lemon-y cream sauce.
- For the Chicken:
- 2 large boneless Chicken breasts, halved horizontally to make 4 pieces
- 1 ½ ounces of Finely Grated Piave Extra Aged (Oro del Tempo)
- ½ cup all-purpose Flour
- 2 eggs
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly ground Pepper
- For the Sauce:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 ¼ cup Chicken stock
- ½ cup Whole milk
- 1 ½ oz. Finely grated fresh Extra Aged Piave (Oro del Tempo) cheese
- 2 Tbsp. Capers, plus 2 tablespoons extra to garnish
- 1 tsp. Cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp. of water
- 2-3 Tbsp. Lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. Fresh parsley, chopped
- Step 1 Using a box grater, grate three ounces of the cheese on the small holes. Put all the cheese in a shallow dish, along with 1 tablespoon salt and ½ cup of the flour. Toss until evenly mixed.
- Step 2 In another shallow dish, whisk the eggs until foamy.
- Step 3 Lightly season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
- Step 4 Dredge the chicken breasts in the egg, then dredge them in the Piave and flour mixture and set aside.
- Step 5 Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil and 1 Tbsp. of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until butter has melted and pan is hot. Fry the chicken until golden on each side and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Transfer to a warm plate.
- Step 6 Add garlic to the oil in the pan and fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low-medium heat, add stock and milk. Bring sauce to a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Step 7 Add the reserved Piave Cheese and the capers. Continue cooking for about two minutes until thicker. Add the cornstarch and water mixture to the center of the pan, and quickly whisk it into the sauce.
- Step 8 Pour in the lemon juice, simmer one minute. Add the chicken back into the pan and allow it to simmer gently in the sauce for another minute.
- Step 9 Garnish the dish with lemon slices and parsley. Serve with a glass of Garda DOC Spumante to enrich your dining experience.
Valentine’s Day Advice: Make Dessert First. This Chocolate Soufflé will fit the bill.