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“I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas!”
I do. I really, really, reallyreallyreally do.
Visting Italy has been a dream of mine way before Under the Tuscan Sun gave me inspiration and made my heart flutter. Thus far, I’m still a non-Italy traveler, although, my spirit allows me to travel there through food. I suppose that is why I love cultural cuisine so much…Indian, Mexican, Polish, Thai…it speaks to me in a way in which words cannot. With an open mind and mouth, I am always ready to listen.
Today, amici miei, pack up your tastebuds; we are going to Italy. Tuscany, to be exact. You may now stamp your Culinary Passport: Lemon Chicken Panzanella with Fresh Ricotta and Balsamic Reduction. Hold on, this is going to be one mouth-watering trip. Citrusy marinated chicken atop an olive oiled mixture of parmesan baguette croutons, slow roasted thyme lemon tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. We’ll only use the freshest of garden herbs mixed with creamy, home made ricotta cheese, just as the Tuscan people would use what is local and in season.
With recipe inspiration from both Jennifer Perillo and Ina Garten, I present to you my little taste of Tuscany. Buon appetito!
- 4 Chicken Thighs, bone-in, skin-on
- ⅓ c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Grated Zest of Two Lemons
- ⅓ c. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (1½ lemons, depending on size of fruit)
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 TB Fresh Rosemary Leaves, minced
- 1 t. Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- **Thyme Lemon Tomatoes
- 1 Pint Grape Tomatoes, cut in half. I cut some vertically and some horizontally for variety
- ¼ c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 6 sprigs Fresh Thmye, stripped from stems
- ½ Lemon sliced into 4 or 5 slices
- Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
- **Parmesan Croutons
- 2 c. baguette, cubed (let the cubes sit on the counter to stiffen up)
- 1 t. Dry Parsley
- 3 TB Parmesan Cheese, grated
- 2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea salt & Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- **Herbed Ricotta:
- 4 c. Whole Milk
- 1 c. Heavy Cream
- ¾ c. Buttermilk
- ½ t. Sea Salt
- 1 TB Chopped Fresh Garlic Chives
- ½ TB Chopped Fresh Oregano
- **Balsamic Reduction:
- ¼ c. Aged Balsamic Vinegar
- **Panzanella Salad:
- Croutons from above
- Tomatoes from above (minus the lemon slices)
- 1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 TB Liquid/Oil from tomatoes
- 2 t. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 t. Honey
- 6 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
- 1 TB Shredded Fresh Parmesan Cheese
- 8-10 Fresh Basil Leaves, torn into pieces
- Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
- Chicken: Place all ingredients in resealable gallon sized bag. Coat chicken well. Place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight for best flavor. Do this step first so it can be marinating while you prepare your other ingredients.
- Tomatoes: Combine all ingredients in a square baking dish. Coat tomatoes well. Bake at 300 degrees for an hour or until tomatoes are wilted and soft. Set aside and let cool until you are ready to assemble panzanella.
- Croutons: Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss until VERY well coated. Place in frying pan and turn cubes until all sides are browned. Set aside in a paper towel lined bowl until you are ready for salad assembly.
- Ricotta: Combine ingredients in a large pot and place over medium heat. Bring to a non-rolling boil. When you see white spots of curds forming, let boil two minutes longer. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. GENTLY remove curds and place into a cheesecloth lined, fine mesh strainer that is set over a bowl. Let drain for 30 minutes. Carefully stir in herbs. Refrigerate.
- Balsamic: Place vinegar in a small saucepan. Lightly boil until reduced by half. Set aside and let cool.
- ***Assembly: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken from the marinade; discard the leftover liquid. In a large, hot oven-proof skillet, add a few turns of extra virgin olive oil. Place the chicken thighs skin side down into the oil. Leave until they become golden and begin to crisp up. Flip the chicken thighs and place skillet into pre-heated oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until internal temp reaches 165 degrees. When done, carefully remove pan (the handle is HOT) and let the chicken rest on the stovetop to allow it to stop sizzling. While the chicken is resting, combine panzanella ingredients of oil, vinegar & honey in a bowl. Combine that with the rest of the ingredients and toss well. (you don't want to do this too soon as the croutons will become soggy.) Plate the salad, topped with a chicken thigh. Garnish with a bit of herbed ricotta and balsamic reduction.