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Kitchen Adventures: Chicken saltimbocca 'leaps in the mouth'

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Food column by Becca Owsley

By Becca Owsley

Italian dishes go beyond a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. It’s frustrating when some restaurants slap spaghetti sauce and mozzarella on a dish and call it Italian.

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While many Italian dishes have these two ingredients, they are neither a prerequisite for Italian cooking nor do the addition of these two ingredients suddenly make a recipe Italian.

In fact, many Italian dishes use no sauce at all. Chicken saltimbocca is one of those dishes.

The word saltimbocca means “leap in the mouth.” It’s a Roman dish chef Giada De Laurentiis said typically is made with veal but the taste of veal often gets lost in the stronger taste of the spinach so she uses chicken in her recipe.

This dish is good because it isn’t incredibly heavy or bogged down with a thick sauce but still has traditional Italian flavors in the prosciutto and parmesan.

If you are not familiar with prosciutto you usually can find it near a grocery’s deli section. It is an Italian ham, sliced very thinly and cured by drying.

When I shopped for the chicken I found a few packages of thinly sliced chicken breast that worked fine for the recipe.

One thing you have to watch is layering too much on the chicken because it will become too thick and difficult to roll. It can be easy to use too much spinach because it does not look like you’ve put a lot on the chicken breast, but the rolls can be too thick when you roll it.

Also, because I don’t have a gas stove, I found it took a little longer to brown the chicken in the first cooking step. It also is good to remember toothpicks can keep the side you are cooking from touching the pan, so you might have to maneuver the toothpicks when turning the chicken to cook all sides.

I usually serve the entire piece of chicken made as the saltimbocca but I have also seen photos of it served sliced like a pinwheel and spread across the plate. With this alternative presentation, it also could be served as a party dish.

Chicken saltimbocca pairs well with a salad or any other side. I used whole grain spaghetti tossed in spices and olive oil. Then I chopped the leftover prosciutto and added it, as well as the left over shredded parmesan.

Molto buono.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Chicken saltimbocca

  • 1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 6 chicken cutlets (3 ounces each), pounded to flatten evenly
  • 6 paper-thin slices of prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • The juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)

Squeeze the frozen spinach to remove excess water. In a small bowl, toss the spinach with one tablespoon of oil to coat. Season with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Place the chicken cutlets flat on a work surface. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of salt and ¾ teaspoon of pepper. Lay one slice of prosciutto on each chicken cutlet. Arrange an even layer of spinach atop the prosciutto and sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over each. Beginning at the short tapered end, roll up each cutlet as for a jelly roll and secure with a toothpick.

In a large heavy skillet, heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil over a high flame. Add the chicken rolls and cook just until golden brown, about two minutes per side. Add the broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to six plates and set aside. Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce until it is reduced to about 2/3 cup, about five minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over the chicken and serve.

Recipe from “Everyday Italian” by Giada De Laurentiis