Unfussy Fare

Chicken Breasts Saltimbocca


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.

serves two

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.

8 Responses to “Chicken Breasts Saltimbocca”

  1. Pamela Perry says:

    This is dinner for tomorrow night. Any wine you suggest paired with it? A hint at the Brussels sprouts?

  2. Gillian says:

    Yay! Wine suggestions? Wow. We drank pinot noir. But left to my own devices, I would drink pinot noir with everything. So I might not be the best person to ask…

    And the brussels sprouts are just browned briefly in butter and salted, then cooked a looong time (30 minutes) covered, on very low heat, in cream. Heavy cream. I know. It sounds gross. But they were the best damn brussel sprouts I ever ate. Oh, and add a big squirt of lemon juice at the end. Something good happens in that pan. I can’t explain it, but it’s true.

  3. Pamela Perry says:

    Just finished a fabulous dinner. I didn’t have fresh sage and forgot to buy it today – dry didn’t add enough punch, but that only means I get to try it again.

    The Brussels sprouts however, “were the best damn Brussels sprouts I ever ate.”


  4. Gillian says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Too bad about the sage. You should grow some in your yard, somewhere Sparky can’t pee…Did you really make the brussels sprouts? Am I right? Are they not divine? I’m going to blog about them, but they really don’t take a very good picture.

  5. Pamela Perry says:

    I made the Brussels sprouts again for lunch today … with the leftover Thai soup from last night. I wouldn’t necessarily serve the two of them together at a dinner party, but man oh man. The Brussels sprouts were heavenly again and the soup … how do you spell drool sounds?

  6. Grandy and Esme says:

    The Saltimbocca is fantastic! It was as easy as promised to make and was such a treat after a day of garden cleanup and a martini! I first tasted Saltimbocca in the 1960s at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction, VT, at the fabulous gourmet restaurant the hotel had at the time. It was an unforgettable treat that was filed away in the “Food We Love to Eat But Could Never Make Ourselves” section. This tasted even better than I remembered–and Saltimbocca has a new category! We will make this again and again. Thanks, Gillian!

  7. Cheri Bush says:

    okkkk…already made your Seafood Provencal Stew……and OMG!!! it was amazing…and even better on the 2nd and 3rd day…lol…i served it over rice….and we had Talapia, scallops and I added shrimp. and you were absolutely RIGHT about the Pernod. i believe i even added a little more….I’m piggish that way!! :) Now i want to try your chicken Saltimbocca. and wondering if you serve that over any pasta? Or alone…and LOVE Brussel Sprouts and am dying to try this. Two questions. about how much cream? Enough to cover? And did you use any garlic in them? anyway..i just found your blog and LOVE it so far…thank you so much for sharing!!! Cheri

  8. Gillian says:

    Thanks, Cheri. I did ultimately post a recipe for the brussels sprouts! I don’t serve the Saltimbocca on pasta, but you certainly could! I usually serve on mashed potatoes. Or nothing. Glad you liked the seafood stew.

Leave a Reply