Saltimbocca
By Charlie Burke

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Veal saltimbocca is on nearly every Italian restaurant’s menu in this country, and
I have seen it in various preparations, usually containing cheese, along with the
traditional prosciutto and usually accompanied by a good amount of sauce.
Many traditional recipes underwent quite a transition when newly arrived
Italians found abundant meat and dairy products here. One example is veal
parmesan, which, to my knowledge, did not exist in Italy where meat was not
plentiful or available for daily meals. There, the dish was made with fried
breaded eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese. Veal was added here simply
because it was readily available.

Dishes such as
veal saltimbocca evolve over the years as restaurant chefs add
their interpretations to the recipe. I was struck by the simplicity of the recipe for
“Roman Saltimbocca” in The Silver Spoon, a wonderful and all encompassing
Italian cookbook published by Phaidon Press Limited in New York. It is the first
English translation of a compendium of recipes compiled in 1950 by Domus, an
Italian magazine. It has never been out of print and is considered authoritative in
Italy. It is said every bride gets a volume, and that they are handed down for
generations. It has over 1,200 pages and over 2,000 recipes, some updated but
most dating well back into the last century. I consider it a must in any serious
cook’s library and it will make a great Christmas present.

According to the book, this recipe is the only main course recipe in Italy which
has been officially agreed upon and decreed. This occurred in Venice in 1962! It is
a great example of true Italian cooking: a great dish simply prepared from a few
high quality ingredients. For the cook, it has the advantage of being easily
prepared well ahead and quickly fired up for serving. Because this is an “official
recipe of Italy”, I decided there would be no problem offering it here, nearly
exactly as it appears in this book. The only change I made was to substitute
pounded chicken breast for the veal: we do not eat veal because of the conditions
under which commercial veal is raised.

Serves four:

3 ½ ounces prosciutto slices, halved
1 pound 2 ounces veal scallopini or chicken breasts, pounded thin (if chicken
breasts are large, cut into 4-6 inch pieces when pounded)
3/4 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon blanc)
8 – 10 fresh sage leaves (those in our garden were fine, despite single digit
temperatures here in NH!)
¼ cup butter
Salt to taste

Place a half slice prosciutto on each scallopini, top with a sage leaf and fold edges
together. Secure with a toothpick. They can be covered with plastic wrap and
refrigerated for several hours or overnight.

Melt the butter over high heat in a sauté pan large enough to hold all pieces and
cook, turning until both sides are browned. Veal may be served pink, but if using
chicken, check to be certain it is cooked through, taking care not to overcook. Add
the wine, cooking until it evaporates. Remove toothpicks and serve, pouring any
juices over the meat.

We served this with fresh pasta and a green salad and found this authentic and
simple recipe to be superior to any saltimbocca preparation we’ve had. Serve it to
guests - they won’t know how easy it is,
but they will understand why
“saltimbocca” translates “jump into the mouth”!







About the author:
An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (www.nhfma.
org) and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne,
he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in
Sanbornton, NH.
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