Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chicken Saltimbocca

As the story goes, the dish known as Saltimbocca originated in Rome.   The story seems kind of sketchy, because one of the featured ingredients - Prosciutto - does not hail from Rome or the province of Lazio, where the capital is located.  Prosciutto comes from two places.  First, there is Prosciutto di Parma, which comes from the region of Emilia Romagna.  Second, there is Prosciutto di San Daniele, which comes from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.  Given that prosciutto comes from places other than Rome, it made me a little skeptical of the story. 

So, I did my research.  According to one source, the dish of Saltimbocca came from Brescia, which is in Lombardy.  That source also traced the recipe to its first written origin, which was an "influential book" published toward the end of the 19th century by Pellegrino Artusi, an Italian chef.  Chef Artusi included a recipe for "Saltimbocca alla Romana" as Recipe No. 222 in his book.  He also claimed to have the dish at a trattoria named "La Venete" in Rome. 

On additional note about the history of Saltimbocca.  In Rome, Saltimbocca is most commonly prepared with veal.  The recipe adapted as it made its way to America with Italian immigrants, who prepared it with chicken instead of veal.  Chicken is far more commonplace in the United States and is far cheaper than veal. 

I found a recipe for Chicken Saltimbocca in a cookbook by Mario Batali, America Farm to Table.  The recipe looked simple enough to prepare on a busy weekday night, and it included a pan sauce with mushrooms that looked delicious.   

As I made this recipe, I would note a couple of observations.  First, the marsala wine.  One could buy a nice bottle of Marsala wine, which I am sure would make a difference in the final product.  I did not want to spend a lot of money on a wine that I don't drink and, to be honest, don' t cook with very often.  So, I got a store-bought version that probably barely resembles marsala wine.  The cheaper version worked just fine.  Second, the recipe calls for cremini and oyster mushrooms.  That is definitely a good pairing of mushrooms, but I could not find any oyster mushrooms when I went shopping.   The thing about fungi is that they are, for the most part, fungible.  I bought some shiitake mushrooms and they worked just as well as the oyster mushrooms.  

In the end, I can see why Chicken Saltimbocca is a very popular dish.  The flavors from the chicken, sage and prosciutto, enhanced by the sauce and, in this preparation, the tender mushrooms, made for a very enjoyable dinner.   

Recipe from Wedge Oak Farm
Printed in Mario Batali, America Farm to Table, pg. 176
Serves 4

1 cup all purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs,
8 large fresh sage leaves
8 large slices prosciutto
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound of a mix of cremini and oyster or shiitake mushrooms, 
     cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup sweet marsala wine
1/2 cup of chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch fresh, flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (1/4 cup)

1.  Prepare the chicken. Place the flour in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Lightly pound the chicken thighs to 1/4 inch thickness.  Season with salt and pepper and lay a sage leaf on each thigh.  lay 1 slice of prosciutto over each thigh and fold in half like a book.  Secure the two sides with a toothpick and dredge the whole piece in the seasoned flour. 

2.  Saute the chicken.  In a 12 to 14 inch saute pan, heat the oil until just smoking.  Add the chicken and saute until golden brown on both sides, then transfer to a plate.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until the mushrooms have sweated out their liquid, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the marsala and chicken stock and cook over high heat until reduced by half.  Return the chicken thighs to the an with the sauce and simmer for 3 minutes.  Swirl in the butter, add the parsley and serve. 


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