Vitello Tonnato is a traditional Italian dish consisting of chilled veal in tuna mayonnaise-like sauce, flavored with lemon juice, anchovies and capers.
It is one of THE classic dishes for summer and keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days with flavours developing even more every day. It is also the traditional centerpiece of the Ferragosto dinner in Milano. Since veal is not always easy to find, I made chicken tonnato. Other replacements for veal include pork tenderloin or turkey breast. The pork option is also a firm favourite of mine! Serve it with a classic caprese salad or on its own with different toppings. I topped it with marinated mushrooms and artichokes but why not try steamed asparagus and avocado, or simply scatter with rocket, chopped dill pickles/gherkins, capers and lemon wedges.
Tonnato sauce ingredients:
2 tbsp capers, chopped
9 anchovy fillets, minced or very finely sliced
150 ml olive or grape seed oil
2 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard
1 tin of tuna in oil, drained
2 tsp mayonnaise (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (optional)
Salt and pepper
Chicken breast ingredients:
8 chicken breasts
200 ml good quality chicken stock (Nomu is great!)
200 ml white wine
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, whole
Stick of celery
1 carrot, peeled (whole)
Marinated artichokes and mushrooms ingredients:
2 tins artichoke hearts, quartered
300g baby button mushrooms (optional: sautee in butter for 5 minutes)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar (white wine, red wine or cider vinegar)
2 garlic cloves, minced
bunch of fresh thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra (to garnish):
First of all you need to combine all the ingredients for the marinade, stir it through and refrigerate for 2-3 hours at least. The longer it sits, the better it becomes, so making it a day ahead is a very good idea. Stir and toss occasionally.
Combine the stock, wine, bay leaves, garlic, onion, celery and carrot and bring to the boil. Add the chicken breasts and make sure they are covered with liquid. Steam for 10 – 15 minutes till cooked through. Take off the heat and let the breasts cool in the stock.
To make the sauce: In a food processor, or using a hand blender, combine the eggs, mustard and lemon juice. Once that is done, you need to add the olive oil in a slow stream, blending continuously till emulsified. Add the tuna, capers, anchovies and continue blending till a thick smooth consistency has been reached. You know have the option of adding the optional vinegar and mayo. I added it to make the sauce appear lighter and creamier in colour, making it more visually appealing. If the sauce is till to thick, just add some of the chicken’s stock and blend till the desired consistency has been reached. Flavour with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the cooled chicken breasts and plate. Top with a generous amount of tonnato sauce to completely cover the chicken. If you have a lot of time or energy you can dip each slice of chicken in the tonnato sauce to cover it completely and then plate. This just keeps it moist, especially if you are preparing it ahead of time and it is going to spend some time in the fridge. Spoon the marinated artichokes and mushrooms over and drizzle with some more capers. Garnish with rocket and serve with lemon wedges.