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Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Saute': To jump in the pan.  Saltimbocca: To jump in the mouth.  Satueed saltimbocca: To jump from the pan into the mouth. Double jump.

Sage is a neglected herb.  Aside from holiday stuffings or soup garnishes, it's seldomly used.  Saltimbocca elevates fresh sage to star status.  A Roman dish, saltimbocca is classically prepared by sauteeing  pounded veal cutlets with fresh sage and prosciutto.

Last night, I used boneless skinless chicken breasts for sauteed chicken saltimbocca.  I chose not to pound the chicken breasts, opting to leave them plump for juicier meat.

I was surprized by the simplicity of the method. It was very straightforward.

I placed three gorgeous fresh sage leaves onto each chicken breast before wrapping both breasts with paper thin slices of prosciutto.  I set them aside and pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees.

After washing and trimming 6 large asparagus spears, I sliced them on extreme diagonals, tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, spread them on a baking sheet, and roasted them for exactly 8 minutes.  While the asparagus spears caramelized in the oven, I julienned a fresh roma tomato, discarded the seedy pulp, and dropped the strips into a mixing bowl. 

After 8 minutes, the asparagus pieces were perfected roasted.  I let them cool for a minute before adding them to the tomatoes.

Mise en place. Done.

Yeah, Michael and I had a few glasses of wine.  That's how we roll. 

The importance of mise en place?  After a few glasses of wine, mise en place (everything in its place) allowed the actual  cooking process to flow as easily as the wine flowed from the bottle.  It always does.  Just sayin'.

When it was time to eat, I boiled 1/2 pound of angel hair pasta in heavely salted water until al dente.

While the pasta cooked, I cranked a saute pan to medium high, added olive oil and butter, and sauteed the prosciutto-sage wrapped chicken breasts until the internal temperature reached 160 degrees, about 5 minutes per side.  When cooked through, I removed the breasts from the skillet, tented them to retain heat, and set them side to allow the juices to redistribute. Key.

I deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup white wine, reduced it by half, added 1/2 cup chicken stock, and 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice. When the  pan sauce came to a boil, I removed it from the heat and whisked in 3 tablespoons of cold butter to slightly thicken it.  After draining the angel hair pasta, I tossed it with the asparagus and tomatoes, swirled the pasta into large pasta bowls, placed the saltimbocca parcels over the pasta, and spooned the pan sauce over everything.  A final feathering of fresh lemon zest finished it off.

I love prosciutto. When cooked, it crisps to a crackling point.  The flavor concentrates and the saltiness intensifies. Think wafer thin bacon....on steroids.

Last night, the sauteed  prosciutto enveloped the chicken with a salty crackling shell, creating a sealed sauna that kept the meat juicy and moist; and, as it sauteed, the cured ham seared onto the flesh,  flavoring the chicken with salty goodness. The fresh sage delicately  permeated and perfumed the chicken without obtrusive blasts of sage bites.  The sage was there without being overly there.  It was subtle, faint, and pleasant.

The vegetable-dotted angel hair pasta pillowed the saltimbocca while the fresh lemon infused pan sauce cut through the richness with needed acidity, awakening the sleepy pasta and brightening the salty moist chicken. The flavor combinations were fantastic.  Simple, big, and bold.

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