Hello, prosciutto. Where have you been all my life?
If, like I was until just recently, you are sheltered enough to have never encountered this most delectable of meats, let me explain.
Prosciutto is to ham what Parmesan is to cheddar, what clementines are to oranges, or what a thick, juicy AAA sirloin steak is to ground beef. It’s like once upon a time, someone just decided to take a slice of ham and cure it into heaven.
I’m talking about thin, salty slices of smoky, tingle-on-your-tongue pork that doesn’t need any dressing up or garnishing. Actually, one of my most memorable prosciutto experiences was the Jambon Buerre at a cafe called Bonjour Brioche in Toronto’s Leslieville. As the name suggests, it’s simply a baguette slathered in butter and topped with a generous stack of heavenly ham.
It’s hard to believe that up until just a few months ago, I had absolutely no idea what prosciutto was – if I’d ever heard the term, I likely associated it with some uppity cheese dish that wasn’t really my style. But no, there is nothing uppity about prosciutto. The total opposite, in fact, as the whole premise of its inception was to keep ham tasting fresher for longer by curing it with a mixture of salt and oil. Pretty simple, and incredibly tasty.
There really are no boundaries when it comes to prosciutto. You can even eat it right out of the package, if the mood strikes. You can put it on pizzas or sandwiches or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can use it to wrap other incredibly tasty foods, like I’ve done here. You can get a little carried away with all the prosciutto wrapping possibilities – I’ve seen it wrapped around everything from cheeses to mangoes. But my personal favourite way to cook with this Italian gift is to wrap it around chicken – it makes the perfect mouth-watering blanket for tender cuts of juicy chicken.
To get the maximum flavor, I sear my wrapped chicken breasts in a bit of oil to create a flavorful crust. This crust also helps lock in the juices for the next step, baking the chicken, to ensure every inch of the breast is cooked through while still maintaining the perfect tenderness.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken with Swiss Cheese Sauce
Large stainless steel or cast iron skillet (not nonstick)
Measuring cups and spoons
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of visible fat
Pinch each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 slices prosciutto
2 tsp olive or canola oil
Olive oil cooking spray
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
4 slices Swiss cheese, torn into pieces (or about 1 cup shredded)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place 2 slices prosciutto horizontally, one higher than the other, on a cutting board and place chicken smooth side down over top of prosciutto. Fold prosciutto over chicken to wrap completely. Wrap each in plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes; this helps the prosciutto stick to the chicken.
3. In a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Once oil starts to ripple, add chicken and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook for 2 more minutes.
4. If using a cast iron or all-metal skillet (no rubber on handle), simply transfer skillet to oven. If your skillet has a rubber handle or is not oven-safe, line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Add chicken to sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, prepare Swiss cheese sauce: In a small saucepan, melt butter on low heat. Gradually whisk in flour until thick and well combined. Add milk a little at a time, whisking well between additions, until smooth. Increase heat to medium-low and cook, whisking often, until bubbles start to form and mixture thickens; do not bring to a full boil. Stir in cheese and cook until melted and sauce is thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. To serve, drizzle Swiss cheese sauce over top of chicken.
TIP: This dish is great served with a hearty leafy salad, or if you feel like really indulging, I love it with a classic sticky risotto.