Friday, February 29, 2008

Some of my Favorite Things... Prosciutto

I thought it would be nice to have a regular feature on some of my favorite food things, whether they be ingredients, cooking methods, food shops, or kitchen gadgets & gizmos. Mt first topic is prosciutto, which is often referred to around London as simply "Parma ham." We eat a lot of this stuff around here... as a snack with cheese, wrapped around chunks of Galia or Honeydew Melons, in pasta sauces, crisped and crumbled over salad like bacon bits. It is definitely a regular item I plunk into my cart every or nearly every shopping trip to the local market. I am fussy about my must be quite lean and soft. I can't abide dried up shrively oversmoked prosciutto at all. Luckily for me, London is full of choices and much of the prosciutto I can buy here is very fresh and delicious. It is not cheap stuff, but not so exorbitantly priced that I can't buy it regularly enough to satisfy any craving. It is a favorite thing, and therefore, worth the splurge.

Here is something I have been making lately using prosciutto. It is an incredibly simple dish that I can make whether I have a migraine, or if I am half asleep, or otherwise completely worn out. It requires so very little effort and so much satisfaction. It is one of those wonderful recipes that is easily adapted to change without any major noticeable adverse affects. It isn't terribly unusual, many people make a variant of the same thing, but here is the basic recipe:

Chicken Dolcelatte
(serves 4)

4 skinless boneless chicken breast filets
salt and pepper, to taste
Dijon mustard
8 slices prosciutto or Parma ham or bacon
4 Tbsp soft flavorful cheese (such as Dolcelatte Blue cheese, Cashel Blue, or a seasoned Boursin works too)

Preheat the oven to 190 C.

Lightly oil a baking pan. Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then brush tops lightly with just a bit of Dijon mustard. Take about a Tbsp size blob of cheese and press it on top of each chicken breast, then wrap 2 pieces of Parma ham around it, covering the cheese as best as you can. Bake the chicken, uncovered, until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

I always make these potatoes to serve alongside the chicken:

Savory Roast Potatoes

500 grams tiny roasting potatoes, cut into halves
Herbes de Provence or Italian Seasoning blend or Greek Seasoning blend,liberally, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 190 C. Toss the tiny potato halves into a roasting pan with sides and drizzle some olive oil over the top, maybe 1-2 Tbsp, just enough to coat them. Liberally sprinkle some herb seasoning over them, then a few grinds of salt & pepper. Toss well to coat. Bake 45 minutes to and hour, or until well roasted.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

London Bloomer Bread

Having mentioned eating "Bloomer" bread in my previous posting, I went out shopping today to pick up a loaf of the stuff (see photo). The loaves have a long oblong shape, with a decorative slashed pattern on the top, which I think rather looks a bit like a fern. The texture of the interior is quite soft, with a satisfyingly chewy and very slightly crisp crust. The exterior is covered with a whitish powdery dusting all over the surface. This dusty looking substance reminds me of the bloom you would see on a ripe cheese, so perhaps this is one reason for the name "Bloomer."

I did hunt around quite a bit for a recipe, but although these loaves are quite common in most bakeries and markets around town, recipes for this bread seem hard to come by. I finally did track down a recipe on the Shipton Mill website for Traditional English Overnight Dough, which they describe on their site as the "classic recipe used for traditional favourites such as the London Bloomer with its characteristic diagonal slashes to the top as well as the distinctively shaped Cottage Loaf."

It all has to start somewhere...

I recently moved to London from the US and for some time have been just itching to record my experiences exploring the various foods this huge city has to offer. I rarely stick to one food type, as I am incredibly daring when it comes to sampling new tastes. I am forever on a quest to try new tastes, new cuisines, and London is certainly an excellent place to do that.

What?? Doesn't England have this long standing reputation of having the worst food imaginable? Before I moved here, all I heard was how dreadfully bland and boring and overcooked the food in England is. How utterly dreary and wretched the food would be. Well, that could not be further from the truth, at least as far as I have seen & tasted thus far. I have been treated to delicious curries, rich pies, the freshest vegetables & fruits, delicious lamb and beef, fluffy gorgeous pillows of bread known as Bloomer, excellent salmon, the list goes on and on. The grocery stores here are lush with fresh produce of every possible sort...and even fresher at farmer's markets such as Borough Market in Southwark. I was astonished and delighted. I have never seen such a glorious selection of ingredients.