June 20, 2014 at 8:02 am

Simply the Best

Chicken, sage and pancetta a terrific combo

Chicken with pancetta and sage served with fresh tomatoes, basil and burrata make an easy weeknight meal. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)

I enjoy talking to my colleagues about food. I work with more than a few exceptional cooks and some who don’t consider themselves good cooks particularly but always like to talk about food and what they’ve prepared or enjoyed in a restaurant. In the former category, my colleague Mark is a wonderful, inventive cook and knows his way around the kitchen or grill as well as the wine cellar. When he tells me what he’s prepared, I listen.

Recently, he spoke of a chicken dish that he and his wife made that sounded wonderful. Marinated chicken breasts cubed and wrapped with sage leaves and pancetta then grilled. “The flavor was outstanding,” he told me, and because I had sage in the garden and pancetta in the fridge along with some chicken breasts, I made a mental note to create that meal — and soon.

But weeknights can be hectic; when I get home I don’t feel like doing a lot of prep work and want to be outside on the deck or in the garden. I skipped the idea of cubing the chicken and flattened each breast to about ¼ inch. Then I placed a few sage leaves on top, followed by the pancetta and sauteed them for a few minutes and served in a butter wine sauce. The result was wonderful, I didn’t have to light the grill or wrap and marinate and skewer chicken cubes. Still, Mark’s execution has me intrigued and next time (maybe this weekend?) I will prepare it his way. Serve with a simple tomato salad with fresh basil and burrata drizzled with olive oil.

Chicken With Pancetta and Sage

Recipe adapted from “In My Kitchen” by Ted Allen

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
12 sage leaves (8 whole, 4 chopped)
6 thin slices of pancetta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade, or low-sodium store-bought

Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness of ¼ inch. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and flip. Brush lightly with the egg. Press 2 sage leaves onto each piece of egged chicken, then cover with pancetta (about 1 ½ slices per breast), and press again. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and the chicken, pancetta side down. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken, and cook until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a warm plate and cover with foil.

Add the butter to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the shallot until soft, 3 minutes. Add the flour, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the thyme and wine, and deglaze, scraping up the brown bits; simmer for 3 minutes. Add the stock and chopped sage, and simmer until thickened, a few minutes. Serve the chicken on a pool of the sauce. Serves 4.

Per serving: 363 calories; 18 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 45 percent calories from fat); 4 g carbohydrates; 1 g sugar; 171 mg cholesterol; 484 mg sodium; 43 g protein; 0 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com