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Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Tenders

July 29, 2014

You’ve mastered the regular fare, conquered the unusual ingredients, and perfected the art of leaving stuff alone once it hits the grill surface. You are, in short, a grilling ninja. Let’s give those skills a workout with some delicious and tender, but finicky protein—chicken tenders and prosciutto. We’re talking real tenders, not strips of chicken breast that resemble tenders and real prosciutto, not strips of bacon. But we don’t need expensive deli cuts or de parma since we’ll be putting this buttery, paper-thin ham on the heat.

Prosciutto is fully cured and doesn’t require any further cooking. To further complicate matters, it’s so thin that even slight direct heating can render it mostly inedible. But we have two things going for us, the marinade we’ll be making for the chicken has a considerable amount of oil in it so we’ll have some additional protection on our prosciutto, and we actually want a slight crispness to the prosciutto as part of this dish.

Under normal circumstances, we’d want the grill grates to be screamin’ hot before we began grilling. But not for these delicate skewers. We’ll be grilling them over low to medium-low heat. And even with the lower temperature, it’s still likely that the prosciutto will be burned away where it touches the grates. So long as the entire skewer isn’t a charred mess, you’ve done the job nicely. We also won’t be looking for nice grill marks on these tenders since that would inevitably mean they were cooked at too high a temperature. Just remember that clean grates will give you the best flavor.

As you can guess, unless you have exquisite control over your charcoal, a gas grill is the best bet for these tenders. If the weather suddenly turns heinous just before you grill these, you can roast them in a 450°F oven for 16 minutes. They might lack some of the charm that comes from cooking over direct heat, but they will certainly taste delicious. Roast these tenders on a cooling rack placed inside a baking sheet to keep them off the solid surface. No need to turn these during cooking.

Like all other grilled and cooked meats, a slight rest off heat will improve the flavor and texture of these tenders dramatically. The chicken juices will soften any parts of the prosciutto that have charred or slightly burned during grilling, and the overall temperature of the tenders will even out during a brief 5 minute rest. It’s up to you whether or not you want to remove the skewers before serving these tenders to your guests. The skewer does add charm, but it can be difficult to remove cleanly so consider how you want to present these beforehand.

The official grilling season is drawing to a close, but if you’re a grilling enthusiast, willing to do battle in the bitter cold and dark of night on those short winter days, this is a perfect appetizer for any winter gathering. It’s also perfect on these hot summer days when cooking in doors is just too much heat.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Tenders

  • 24 chicken tenders, cleaned with the tendon trimmed completely
  • 24 slices Citterio prosciutto 

Marinade

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup dry rosemary
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large lidded container and set aside. Clean each chicken tender being sure to remove the white connective tissue and trimming the central tendon as much as possible without mangling the tender. Marinate the chicken at room temperature for 30 minutes. Soak 24 bamboo skewers in cool water. Weber makes a medium-length skewer that is flat. These won’t allow the meat to rotate while it’s on the skewer.

Wrap each tender in a slice of prosciutto. Thread the wrapped tender onto the skewers to hold the prosciutto in place. Set aside.

Heat the grill to medium (400°-450°F). Adjust the gas to keep the grill at that temperature and allow the grates to heat for 5 minutes. Grill the tenders, turning once for 3-4 minutes a side. Turn the gas down to low for the second side. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before removing the skewers or serving.

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