Crispy chicken with Serrano ham


crispy chickenOf course I was nervous about interviewing Gino D’Acampo, the young and charming Italian chef of Ready Steady Cook. I had a meetup with him for his visit to the Netherlands, last Friday, when he was here to promote his new book Fantastico. He was a little late because he got stuck in a traffic jam, but all went fine and I published my interview on Zestz. Then I went to the large Italian lifestyle-fair where Gino was supposed to do some real life cooking, in a castle nearby.

Very funny to see all things Italian concentrated in one place: Tuscan holiday village people, pizza oven sellers, olive oil stands, Boretti oven guys and even some laptop sellers, although I didn’t get what they had to do with Italy. There was an impersonator of Luciano Pavarotti walking around with his white shawl and there were some Illy coffee baristas showing their skills. I was lucky to be taught by them how to do a perfect cappuccino, which is so much harder than you think. It looks easy as he explains, but when you stand in front of the large espresso machine you completely forget the right order of things. Grinding beans? Milk temperature? Weight of pressing down coffee?

Again I waited for Gino, who was supposed to do his dish at 1.30. He was stuck in another traffic jam, arriving just before 2 o’clock. Most of his waiting fans had left for other places, so he was hesitant to cook – plus a little shocked by the small scale of the cooking demo site – and decided to postpone until much later that day. I really wanted to see him cook, but wasn’t willing to wait another three hours for a demo that perhaps wouldn’t even happen. So I decided to go home and cook his planned dish of that day myself: Crispy Chicken Breasts Topped with Taleggio and Serrano Ham [Pollo impanato alla noci con serrano e taleggio].

[For 4] You will need:
2 (to 4) chicken breasts, some Serrano ham, breadcrumbs (panko is best), 100 grams of mixed nuts, 50 grams of flour, Taleggio cheese (I couldn’t find it, so used Emmenthal instead), 800 grams cherry tomatoes, 8 anchovies and 1 red onion. You can always read the instructions on his site if you don’t get my explanation, but I flattened the chicken breasts between sheets of cling film with a large wooden mallet and halved them; made up a sauce of chopped onion, anchovies and cherry tomatoes (lovely, lovely flavours!) which I let simmer in a pan for half an hour.

Meanwhile, I chopped the mixed nuts and mixed with flour and breadcrumbs (I ran out of panko and forgot to add flour). Then I dipped the chicken into the egg mixture, then in the nutty-crust-mixture and put on a plate. Finally I fried the chicken in hot oil for a total of 4 minutes, turning once; I was careful not to let the nuts burn. Then I put the chicken on a large heatproof plate and put it under the hot grill with cheese on top for another minute or so. Finally I served the chicken on top of a spoonful of tomato sauce, with some Serrano ham on top. Everyone really liked this dish and begged me to cook from Gino’s cookbook again…but my tastebuds thought although the tomato sauce and the nuts by themselves were really good to eat, the combination somehow was a mismatch, although I can’t say why; perhaps it was the sesame flavour in the replacement breadcrumbs I used?


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