Saltimbocca. It translates to “jumps in the mouth.” That’s a pretty high bar when you’re talking about a boneless, skinless chicken breast, which is sort of the Wonder Bread of the poultry world. But Saltimbocca takes the humble chicken breast to new heights. The blend of flavors here hits every note. Sage is earthy and fragrant. Marsala wine is complex and fruity. And Prosciutto, well, cured pork is just the world’s greatest innovation. The whole get-up flatters chicken to perfection.
If you don’t have any Marsala, run out and buy some. You’ll find it on the shelf beside the sherry and port. I’m usually the queen of substitutions, but I recommend against using other kinds of wine here. I”m sure it would taste fine, but it wouldn”t taste like this. And THIS is worth tasting. Marsala really makes this dish. It’s worth having a bottle. I’ve used dry and sweet Marsala in this recipe, and they both have their charms. Even if you don’t drink it, you’ll need some on hand when Chicken Saltimbocca goes into your regular dinner rotation.
This dish takes just a few minutes and one pan. The best part is hammering the chicken flat. Then you just dredge, brown, top with prosciutto and sage, and simmer briefly in wine. And voila! You’ll feel mighty pleased with yourself when those flavors not only jump, they shimmy and twist. It’s easy to cook the chicken breasts to juicy perfection, since you’ve hammered them into uniformly thick submission. The golden brown crust and rich wine sauce will give you a whole new appreciation for the moist and tender chicken breast. It’s heaven on mashed potatoes.
This recipe was adapted from one in Cuisine Rapide, by Pierre Franey. If you want to keep things simple and still eat well, have a look at this book. It’s been around for over twenty years, and it”s stood the test of time. Oh, and the Brussels sprouts in this picture may not look like much, but they are a divine revelation, deserving of their very own post. More on that later.
CHICKEN BREASTS SALTIMBOCCA
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about ¾ pound)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 thin slices of prosciutto
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dry
½ cup marsala wine
Place a breast half between two plastic bags and pound with a mallet until it is a uniform ½ inch thick. Repeat with second breast. (For ten years or so I did this with a hammer. I finally splurged four dollars on a meat mallet. It works better.)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Season meat with salt and pepper. Dredge lightly in flour. Shake off excess flour.
Add chicken to oiled pan in a single layer. Cook for about two minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. Turn the chicken and cook another two minutes until the second side is nicely browned. Remove chicken to a plate.
Lay the prosciutto slices in the hot pan, saute until they start to brown (about 20 seconds). Place the prosciutto slices on top of the chicken breasts. Melt butter in the same pan, and return the prosciutto-topped chicken to the pan.
Sprinkle sage over chicken. Pour marsala into pan. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for two to three minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through.