Sunday, December 5, 2010

Herb Crusted Chicken Focaccia Sandwich with Roasted Beet, Danish Bleu Cheese and Balsamic Vinaegrette

A nice gourmet sandwich!  

     I worked in a French Provencal restaurant in Florida that was a 30 year winner of the Gold Spoon Award.  We served modern French Provence style cuisine with a creative flair.  We had a very wealthy eccentric clientele that always seemed to want to try something new. 
     I was the day grill chef at that restaurant and at night I would go upstairs to the second floor to cook some very trendy French cafe cuisine at the sister restaurant.  The downstairs restaurant was much more formal than the upstairs casual cafe.  All hospitality jobs in Florida are seasonal.  Busy in the winter and closed for the summer was the schedule for the formal downstairs restaurant.  The second floor restaurant stayed open year round.
     During the last week of business that spring, before closing for the summer, I made a very nice focaccia bread recipe to make gourmet pizzas with and to make a trendy sandwich for the specials du jour.  I expected the sandwich to be the slower seller of the two specials.  I sold all of the gourmet pizzas!  This sandwich did get some nice compliments from the eccentric clientele that I had expected to try it.
     Focaccia (Pizza Dough) Recipe:
     If you have dough making experience, then this will be easy.  
     High gluten flour is best for this recipe, but bread flour can be used.  Pizza dough is focaccia dough or Italian bagette style bread dough.  No oil in the mixture will produce a dough that is like many Italian breads that are not enriched with fat or French baguette bread dough.  Many pizzeria chefs do not add oil to a pizza dough and that is correct pizza dough too.  
     Focaccia style doughs require enrichment with fat.  Olive oil is a fat!  Oil strengthens and elongates the gluten strands of the dough.  It only takes a very small amount of oil to produce a nice texture.  The elastic gluten strands give pizza dough the ability to be stretched and tossed in the air!
     Add 2 tablespoon of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast to 16 ounces of tepid luke warm 110 degree water in a mixing bowl.
     Place the mixing bowl in a luke warm place like on top of a warm oven.
     When the yeast activates, add 2 teaspoons of sugar to proof the yeast.
     Add about 2 cups of flour.
     Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Stir the mixture with a spoon, till a very loose wet dough is formed.
     Start adding a little bit of flour at a time,while stirring, till a loose dough is formed.
     Add a little more flour at a time, while mixing with your fingers, till the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
     You will be able to feel when the dough is starting to get elastic.  It will stick to your hands when made correctly, but that will change after rising twice.
     Add flour, while hand mixing, till the dough can pull away from the sides of the bowl.
     Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a dry towel.
     Set the bowl on top of an oven in a luke warm area, with a second towel underneath the bowl to protect the dough from too much heat.
     When the dough rises more than double, beat it down with your knuckles and gather the dough like a ball in the bowl.
     Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise again.
     When it rises the second time, beat the dough down and knead firmly with your hands for 1 minute.
     Place the dough on a floured counter top.
     Roll the dough into a large ball.
     Cut the dough ball in half for two medium size pizzas portions or into four portions for mini pizzas.
     Roll and tuck each dough portion with with your hands to make smooth dough balls.
     You can cover and refrigerate each dough ball for a few days or freeze the dough portions for later use.

     This is a plain olive oil focaccia!
     Coat a smooth countertop with a very thin film of olive oil.  (Just a few drops of olive oil wiped on the counter is plenty!)
     Place a mini pizza size 12" to 14" portion of the dough on the counter top.
     Use your fingertips to press and stretch the dough flat.
     Use your finger tips to gently press the dough outward from the center to form a flat rustic pizza dough shape that is less than 1/2" thick.
     Place the focaccia on a pizza pan that is lightly brushed with olive oil.  (Re-stretch the dough if necessary.) 
     Brush the dough lightly with olive oil.
     Bake in a 450 degree oven, till the dough is halfway cooked and still white.
     Brush the focaccia with olive oil.
     Finish baking the focaccia, till it gets light golden brown highlights.
     Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool.
     Roasted Beet:
     Cut the green top off 1 fresh beet.
     Roast the beet in an oven at 400 degrees, till it is cooked just beyond al dente.
     Cool the roasted beet under cold running water.
     Peel the skin off of the beet by rubbing with a dry towel.
     Slice the roasted beet.
     Set the beet slices aside.

     Herb Crusted Chicken:
     Dried herbs or fresh herbs are good for herb crusting.  Many herbs are better when dried.
     Place these herbs in a mixing bowl:
     - 1 teaspoon of oregano
     - 1 teaspoon of marjoram
     - 1 teaspoon of basil
     - 1/2 teaspoon of chopped sage or 2 pinches a dried ground sage
     - 1/2 teaspoon of thyme together in a mixing bowl
     Butterfly cut a 6 ounce chicken breast filet.
     Season the chicken breast with sea salt and black pepper.
     Press the chicken breast into the herb mixture, so it becomes coated with the herbs.
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 splash of blended olive oil.
     Sear the herb crusted chicken.
     Flip the chicken only once so the herb crust stays on the chicken filet.
     When the chicken is fully cooked set it aside.
     Allow the herb crusted chicken to cool.
     Cut the herb crusted chicken breast filet it into thin 45 degree angle slices.
     Balsamic Vinaegrette Recipe:
     Place 1/4 teaspoon of dijon mustard in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Slowly add 1 1/3 tablespoons of olive oil, while whisking.
     Set the simple balsamic vinaegrette aside.
     Onion Straws Recipe:
     Slice 1 small handful of paper thin onion slices.
     Season with sea salt, black pepper and 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Toss the seasoned onion slices with just enough flour to coat them.
     Heat 4" of vegetable frying oil to 360 degrees in a high sided pot.
     Add a few of the coated onions at a time, so the risk of hot oil foaming is reduced.
     Note:  The crispy onion straws cook quickly, so be ready to net them out of the hot oil!
     Use a fryer net to remove the crispy onion straws from the oil, after they turn a light golden brown color.
     Drain the excess oil off by setting the onion straws on a dry towel.
     Herb Crusted Chicken Focaccia Sandwich with Roasted Beet, Danish Bleu Cheese and Balsamic Vinaegrette:
     Cut 4 thin slices of ripe plum tomato.
     Trim 2 sandwich size slices of focaccia bread. so it is an even sandwich slice thickness.
     Place a few baby spinach leaves on the bottom piece of focaccia bread.
     Place the plum tomato slices on the spinach.
     Place the herb crusted chicken breast slices on the spinach and tomato.
     Place a few of the roasted beet slices on top of the chicken slices.
     Place 2 thin Danish Bleu Cheese slices on top of the roasted beets.
     Place open face bottom half of the sandwich in a 350 degree oven, to soften the Danish Bleu Cheese and to warm the sandwich.  (Do not brown the bleu cheese, or it will become bitter tasting!)
     Put the top piece of focaccia sandwich bread in the oven to warm it up too.
     Remove the warmed sandwich from the oven.
     Set The bottom half of the sandwich on a plate.
     Lean the top piece of focaccia against the sandwich.
     Set the crispy onion straws next to the sandwich.
     Drizzle the balsamic vinaegrette over the sandwich with a spoon.
     The flavors of this sandwich put a smile on my face!  This is a nice "feel good" sandwich creation.  The Danish Bleu Cheese tastes great with the roasted beets and herb crusted chicken.  The roasted beets add a nice light flavor.  The chicken has a nice herb aroma.  The simple balsamic vinaegrette is perfect for the flavors of this sandwich.  The crispy onions can be eaten as an accompaniment or placed on top of the sandwich.  This is one healthy yummy sandwich!  ...  Shawna

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