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An Ode to My Mother and Her Recipe for Chicken Cotto

Our Editor-in-Chief shares a recipe from his mother and pays tribute to her for instilling a love of food in him.

Andrew and Joanne Cotto.

My mother was a fabulous woman. She taught me so much about life, including compassion, kindness, and the joy of being joyful no matter what the circumstance. What she also bestowed upon me was a love of food and its ability to convey good will.

As a first-generation Italian American, my mother understood her roots but wanted a more diverse cultural experience in all of her pursuits. When it came to food, she knew the Italian-American standards, and knew them well, but she also loved Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. She used to clandestinely tear recipes out of gourmet food magazines in doctors’ offices, much to my embarrassment. “Shhh, Andy,” she’d whisper. “It’s going to be so good!”

She was usually right. And she always included me in the process. This was the best part about my mother and food. She didn’t just want to cook for me (and my brother, and my father, and our extended family, and all of our friends), she wanted me to help her.

My mother adored me. She called me her “Little Prince” and threatened regularly, when I was very little, to put me in the freezer so I’d never grow up. I did grow up, though, often at her side, and our endeavors often involved preparing food.

Andrew Cotto, on his 1st birthday, with his mother and brother.

So, we’d take those recipes stolen from the gourmet food magazines and go to the store. We’d have such fun shopping, traversing the aisles with her often singing and dancing to the music of the supermarket soundtrack.

At home, she’d put me to work prepping the ingredients while she got the kitchen ready. We’d make the food together and proudly serve it to my father and brother.

As I got older, I’d help her with legendary family holidays and the elaborate dinner parties she’d throw.  

Whether it was the meals we prepared (or she prepared alone) for our immediate family, our extended family, the guests at her dinner parties or groups of friends my brother and I had at the house on regular occassions, my mother was always the happiest person in the room, somehow functioning as both host and chef.

Her example of preparing and serving food as a source of joy and convivium is among the greatest gifts she gave me. This is the reason I dedicate much of my personal and professional life to the gospel of food as a source of wellness and harmony. Thank you, Mom. I think of you at every meal (and often in between).

This recipe for Chicken Mama Cotto (basically, an Italian Cordon Bleu) is among those of hers that I most cherish. Not only is it really good, but it symbolizes her often unconventional approach to Italian food. Butter (Mamma Mia!)? The microwave (Dai!)? Don’t even get me started on the French inspiration. Trust me, though: It really works, and any leftovers on a roll are even better.

Chicken Mama Cotto

Chicken Mama Cotto

Recipe by Andrew Cotto
5.0 from 1 vote
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 4 chicken breasts, butterflied & pounded even

  • 1 stick 1 unsalted butter, melted

  • 8 slices 8 Prosciutto

  • 8 slices 8 Provolone cheese

  • 1 cup 1 seasoned breadcrumbs

  • Salt & pepper

Directions

  • Season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper.
  • Layer the underside of each breast with 2 slices of Prosciutto.
  • Layer 2 slices of Provolone over the Prosciutto.
  • Roll the breasts into cylinders.
  • Secure each breast with two pieces of kitchen twine.
  • Coat each breast in the melted butter.
  • Coat each breast in the breadcrumbs.
  • Place each breast in a microwave safe dish.
  • Add some breadcrumbs on top of each breast.
  • Microwave for five minutes.
  • Turn the breasts over.
  • Microwave for five more minutes.
  • Let the breasts rest, loosely covered in foil, for five minutes.
  • Half each breast width-wise.
  • Serve topped with sauce left in the dish.
  • Enjoy!

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