Chicken in a Fennel Mushroom Sauce

This dinner entree is hearty, more of a winter feel to it due to the predominance of the mushroom flavor.  It is a bit of preparation, and you will need kitchen twine to tie the rolled, stuffed chicken tightly for cooking.  Kitchen twine has more of a cloth-like feel to it, so I don’t think you can substitute regular twine.  I had forgotten about the twine, and Kris had to wildly rush out to find it, going to 3 different stores.  Finally he was successful at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Ingredients:
(not pictured: 1 cup dry white wine, lemon zest, salt and pepper)
-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-3 small fennel bulbs
-1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (or any other dried mushroom mix)
-2 Tablespoons fresh sage
-2 sweet Italian sausages
-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-5 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Basic Prep:
1.  Make sure you have kitchen twine.  🙂
2.  In 1 cup of hot water, add the dried mushrooms to rehydrate.  Mine are in the glass bowl in the back of the ingredients.  They’ll need about 30 minutes.
3.  Place one chicken breast into large gallon size zip-lock plastic bag so that none of the juices or bits and pieces will fly out.  Pound the chicken breast until flattened, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  If you have one of the food mallets use that.  We used a hammer and an iron skillet.3.  Repeat step 2 with remaining 5 breasts.  This is a good time to get out any anxiety or frustration.
4.  Prep any remaining ingredients for the assembly line: chop up the sage, zest the lemon, take out the mushrooms and squeeze any excess water from them (SAVE YOUR WATER FOR THE SAUCE), remove the casings from the sausage and divide into 6 chunks.  Make everything an arm’s distance away from your work space.  You will be arranging and rolling each flattened chicken breast  in an assembly line.

Here’s what you need: flattened breasts, salt and pepper for flavor, sausage, lemon zest, chopped sage, Parmesan cheese, rehydrated mushrooms (REMEMBER TO SAVE YOUR WATER FOR THE SAUCE), and a glass dish to set the completed roll-ups in.

I’m sorry I do not have photos, Kris was out getting me cooking twine.

5.  Take a flattened chicken breast and set on a plastic cutting board.  Sprinkle pepper if you so choose.  (If you like salt you can add salt too.  I found the sausage has enough salt)
6.  Take 1/6 of your sausage mixture and spread all over the flat breast.  Try to cover the entire area.
7.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of Parmesan cheese.
8.  Sprinkle with lemon zest and chopped fresh sage.
9.  Finally, add some rehydrated mushrooms.
10.  Roll the chicken breast as compactly as you can, from one side to the other.  The end you start with is the most flimsy end because you want it rolled into itself to keep the ingredients inside.  End on the side that is better flattened.
11.  This moment in time, you should take 3 small pieces of kitchen twine and secure the chicken roll tightly, however, Kris hadn’t come back yet, so I kept going.
12.  Repeat with the remaining 5 breasts.  Be mindful of how much of an ingredient you take since you have to spread it out over 6 chicken breasts.  (I had to chop more sage and zest more lemon.  Maybe I’ll try to have more than I think before I start.)
Here’s the twine process.

Start with 3 small pieces of twine that run the length of the chicken roll.

Rolling and Securing Chicken

Tie up each piece and make a double knot to secure.

Rolling and securing chicken

After you’ve finished securing each breast, clip off the excess twine.

You will have to brown the chicken breasts in 2 batches, then cook them all together.
13.  In a large dutch oven, melt 2 1/2 Tablespoons of butter.  Wait for it to get lightly browned and start to smoke a little.  This is butter’s signal that it’s hot.  Hot butter=beautifully browned chicken.
14.  Using tongs, add 3 of the chicken breasts to the pot.  Let brown on each side, 5-6 minutes per side.  Remove the breasts.
15.  Add remaining butter, and repeat the same browning process for the other 3 breasts.  Set these aside when well-browned.
16.  Add 1 cup of dry white wine and scrape up the flavor-bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon.  Then add all the chicken rolls to the pot.  It’s OK if you need 2 layers.  Cover.  Cook over simmering heat for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, make your mushroom fennel sauce.
1.  Slice fennel.  Remove the fronds so all you have is the bulb.
2.  Cut it in half.3.  Carefully cut out the core.4.  Now go wash out the sandy soil.  I got mine at the farmer’s market, so you have to wash extra well.
5.  Slice fennel into strips.6.  Place fennel and leftover mushroom water (it will be brown at this point) into a medium sauce pan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes.
7.  Remove from heat and place fennel and water in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Then return to the saucepan.
8.  Cook over high heat to reduce the sauce to the consistency you desire.  This took me about 10 minutes.
9.  Serve sauce on the side, so each person can add how much they want.
Servings: 6 or 12, depending on how many side dishes you have.  If you have lots more side dishes, you could cut the breasts in half and serve each person 1/2.  I just gave everyone their own.  Remember to cut the strings before you serve.  I didn’t, so we passed a knife at the table; remember how I said our friends are forgiving.

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