Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chicken with Prosciutto, Chard and Pine Nuts

It's easy to see why it is called
Rainbow Chard
         I have significant lapses in my culinary adventures.  Before I made this perfect weeknight dinner with its amazing range of delicious tastes and textures, I had never cooked Chard.  I will not go so far as to say I had never eaten  Chard but it certainly has never been something I actively sought out of any menu I can remember. I imagined a bitter taste, something akin to some truly unpleasant experiences I have had with collard greens.  But in the spirit of locovore eating, nothing makes more sense in January than eating this very hardy vegetable. You can find freshly cut at Winter Farmer’s Markets. Mine, I confess, came straight from California via Fairway Market.  Hardly local but certified organic.
          Swiss Chard is a complete misnomer.  Chard’s earliest varieties originated in Sicily.  The ‘Swiss” moniker was given to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by seed catalogs in the 19th Century.   All Chard has varying shades of deep green leaves. The stalks are what determined the actual variety—with beautiful and very colorful stems in red, orange, yellow and white.  What I bought was called “Rainbow Chard”, which is not a variety at all but an allusion to the fact that several varieties are sold together.   I’ve read that fresh young chard can be tossed into salads.  But at this point in the season, it made sense to sauté it as you would spinach, with a little oil and garlic.  To absolutely guarantee that there’s no bitterness, this recipe incorporates orange juice.  It was absolutely delicious. And it’s one of those foods that you can eat sanctimoniously.  Chard's nutritional profile is hard to beat. High in vitamins AK and C, with a 6 oz. serving containing 214%, 716%, and 53%, respectively, of the recommended daily value of those vitamins. It is also rich in minerals, dietary fiber and proteinCouple those virtues with skinless Chicken thighs, thin slices of prosciutto, a tablespoon of olive oil, orange juice and zest and a sprinkle of pine nuts and you’ll feel sanctimonious about the whole dish.
         I adapted this recipe from La Cucina Italiana magazine.  If there’s one food magazine that isn’t on your list and should be, this is it.  Its recipes are easy to follow and they live up to the great truth of Italian cooking: great ingredients, simply prepared give you flavors that are bright and satisfying.  In this case I had to marvel at the combination—the saltiness of the prosciutto, the tenderness of the chicken, the sweetness of the orange, the texture and taste of the chard—all married in something so satisfying that Andrew was completely content eating a very small portion to atone for his Christmas cookie binge.  Not that I was paying too much attention to diet, but the major adaptation I made to the recipe was switching out La Cucina’s pancetta for the much lower fat content of the prosciutto. Now I undoubtedly could have gone even lower if I’d used chicken breasts but to me, there’s no comparison in the depth of flavor of the thighs compared to the breasts.  And if you need any further justification for using them, thighs are far less likely to overcook. Other than the prosciutto-pancetta switch up,  it’s pretty much exactly what the magazine published in June 2008.  Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Chicken with Prosciutto, Chard and Pine Nuts adapted from La Cucina Italiana, June 2008

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Freshly ground black pepper

½ pound sliced prosciutto 

1 Navel orange

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

1⅓ pounds Swiss chard, stems and tough inner stalks removed, roughly chopped


2 tablespoons pine nuts
Heat oven to 400°. Season chicken with pepper and wrap with prosciutto . Place in a baking dish. Bake until browned, about 20 minutes.

While chicken is baking, cut a 1-inch wide strip of peel from the orange, avoiding the pith, and thinly slice. Set sliced peel aside.Squeeze juice from orange.

Remove chicken from oven. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chard and orange peel; cook, stirring, until chard is wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt.

Transfer chicken to skillet with chard; add orange juice and pine nuts, bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.  Serves 2-4 depending on appetite.


  1. I want to make this for sure. I love Swiss Chard and hardly ever use it. What would be a sub for pine nuts since they are so expensive?

  2. You're darn right, pignoli nuts are very expensive. At our local Fairway, they are $21.99 a lb.! I had to buy a $10.00 bag of them to get the 2 tablespoons the recipe requires. I would think that toasted chopped walnuts would work. Toasted Slivered Almonds or Pecans might be a good option. The pine nuts don't have a huge impact in the dish--just adding another texture-- so perhaps you could eliminate the nuts altogether.

  3. Pine nuts will keep for ages (a year + in my case!) in the freezer. I double bag them.

  4. Thanks Bubbles! We keep all our nuts in the freezer. They do seem to last for ages if you do.

    1. Am making tonight; rainbow swiss chard found in local [METRO] grocery store. Will report as per usual!


  5. We look forward to hearing what you think of this dish. Good luck with it.

  6. Monte, I made this last night after requesting swiss chard from my grocer. I omitted the pine nuts since my daughter has a nut allergy but it was delicious nonetheless!

  7. So delighted you liked it! I think the pine nuts can easily be eliminated and you still end up with a wonderfully tasty dish.

  8. Monte, your recipe title states prosciutto but the ingredients list pancetta. I made it with prosciutto and it was delicious! Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

  9. Thanks for pointing out the error. I will fix it right away.