30 January 2012

Eats: chicken saltimbocca

I can hear you already. No really, I can. You’re saying, “Why don’t you just rename this section ‘Stuff Sarah ate on her Italian honeymoon’ already?”

You make a valid point. I will consider it.

In the meantime, let me tell you about some stuff we ate on our Italian honeymoon! Technically, it was Mr. P who ordered this dish, called saltimbocca, at a restaurant in Rome (Ristorante da Giovanni, if you happen to be in the neighborhood). “Saltimbocca” is Italian for “jumps in the mouth”, and traditionally it is prepared with veal topped with prosciutto and sage.

You can only kind of see it on Mr. P’s plate, because this is at the beginning of our honeymoon when I was obsessed with not appearing as an obnoxious tourist and therefore took this photo with the camera halfway under the table and Mr. P staring off in the distance, presumably contemplating how he is a great native Italian and totally not a tourist.

Anyway, it was tasty, but didn’t quite make my list of MUST MAKE UPON RETURN, probably because the mascarpone and speck pizza was hogging the whole list. However, when Elly posted a saltimbocca recipe on her blog, I remembered that it would be worth trying to make here at home. And Elly even subbed in chicken for veal, which is perfect because let’s be honest, I’m really not ever going to bother purchasing veal.

The recipe is really quite simple and straightforward; the only ingredients I wouldn’t normally have on hand is the prosciutto and fresh sage. But I do have ground sage, and hey, I happened to have some leftover prosciutto from making the aforementioned mascarpone and prosicutto pizza! Perfect! It only takes a single paper-thin slice of prosciutto to prepare this dish for two, so if you’re looking for another use for prosciutto, here it is.

You start by thinning out some chicken breasts. I say “thinning out” because I think most people actually use a mallet to pound the chicken breast thin, but I am lazy so I just slice it in half lengthwise. That usually leaves about a quarter to a third of a pound of chicken breast per serving. Season with salt and pepper, then coat in flour (I usually sprinkle it on and rub it in). Then smoosh a piece of prosicutto, trimmed to fit, on your chicken. It’s ready to go!

(Please forgive the rainbow plate. My cutting board was in the dishwasher and I refuse to use our nice dishes as a replacement.)

While you’re prepping the chicken, bring a few tablespoons of olive oil up to medium heat. Toss in the garlic and sage – Elly says to use a clove of garlic, whereas I used “some”, and as I didn’t have fresh sage, I sprinkled in some dry powdered sage.

Then it’s just about time to fry up the chicken! But first, FIRST, PLEASE FIRST: remove the garlic. Elly tells you to do that, but it’s like two sentences later and I wasn’t paying that much attention. Even worse, I thought leaving the garlic in could be a bad idea, but instead of doing something about that, I just plopped the chicken on top of it. So I had to contend with this:

Burned bitter garlic. Yikes. I scraped it out as much as I could, but our finished dish did have that bitter edge to it. Oops. Yeah, get that garlic out before you add the chicken.

THEN add the chicken, prosicutto-side down. It probably took about four minutes per side for me; I flipped the chicken when I could see the edges turning white from pink, as you can see in that burned-garlic photo up there.

Yum! But to truly get the saltimbocca flavors going, we gotta make a pan sauce! First, set the chicken aside in a warm place and get out any burned bits of garlic that you left in the pan because you’re a fool in the kitchen sometimes. Then, de-glaze with 2/3 cup of white wine (again, if you’re me, use “some”):

Scrape up all the little cooked bits of chicken and prosciutto, and reduce the wine as much as your patience will allow. I got it down to a few tablespoons.

Then you add in butter to the reduced wine! Yay, butter! Use a tablespoon of cold butter, and also a teaspoon of lemon juice.

I also threw in the dried parsley, per Elly’s suggestion, and a bit of dried sage. Then I let it all simmer a minute to combine into a freaking gorgeous pan sauce:

And then drizzled it over the chicken:

Mmmm! We rarely eat sage or lemon-y dishes, so this was welcome change that really did make my tastebuds perk up (so it earned its name). I served this with a side of roasted potatoes, because I vaguely remember that was the pairing at the restaurant in Rome. In all, it was a tasty Italian dish... with no pasta or cheese involved! Crazy, I know. Enjoy!