Pollo alla Valdostana

My husband and I recently took a quick weekend trip to Napa, and on our second night, we found ourselves in Santa Rosa, a busy town that lies within wine country but lacks the charm you’d find in, say, St. Helena. Unsure what to do with ourselves for the evening, we decided to try a hole-in-the-wall restaurant (LoCoco’s) that the concierge at our hotel recommended and ended up enjoying some of the best Italian food we’d ever had.

I ordered a simple pasta dish, Cappellini Pomodoro, but my husband ordered the special: breaded chicken topped with prosciutto and Fontina cheese in a white wine sauce. He ate every last bite and said it was one of the best meals of his life.

By the time we left the restaurant we’d both forgotten the name of the dish, but, always on the lookout for a new Italian recipe to try my hand at, I did a little digging as soon as we got home and discovered it was Pollo alla Valdostana. It’s not as widely popular as, say, Chicken Parmigiana, so my search didn’t yield a ton of recipes, but I was able to track down a basic one to which I made a few adjustments in hopes of roughly duplicating the version my husband had at LoCoco’s. Here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients

  • Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs plus two tablespoons of water, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 8 thin slices of prosciutto
  • 6 ounces of shredded Fontina cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil or Italian parsley

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken on a large cutting board and cover it with plastic wrap (or place it between two pieces of plastic wrap if you don’t have a large enough cutting board) and use a meat tenderizer to pound it to even thinness.
  2. Now to set up your assembly line: Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Put the flour on a plate or in a large, shallow bowl. Beat the egg wash mixture (and season with salt and pepper, if desired) in a second large, shallow bowl. And put the bread crumbs on a plate or in a large, shallow bowl as well.
  3. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour and shake off the excess.
  4. Dip the chicken in the egg wash, let the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs.
  5. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat . When it begins to foam, add the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side (keep a close eye on each piece and watch for uneven cooking; rearrange the cutlets if certain areas are cooking faster than others). You can do this two at a time if all four won’t fit in the pan at once.
  6. Move the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  7. Add the wine to the pan (I always cook with Savignon Blanc) and stir the resulting sauce, scraping up any brown pits.
  8. Return the chicken to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Arrange two pieces of prosciutto on each piece of chicken and top with Fontina cheese (dividing the cheese evenly among the four pieces). Spoon a little of the sauce over the cheese and then cover the pan and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil or parsley before serving, if desired.

And voilà!

Pollo alla Valdostana

I served the chicken with linguini with homemade pesto, squash and asparagus, and of course, my famous garlic bread.

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Notes:

  • I believe the most traditional form of this recipe would only call for the chicken to be dredged in flour, so I’ve likely Americanized/bastardized it a bit with the addition of panko, but my husband claims that’s how it was served at the restaurant in Santa Rosa.
  • You can slice the Fontina instead of shredding it, but I like the way it melts better when shredded.
  • For a slightly healthier option, you could use half butter and half olive oil. I plan on doing that next time I make this.