Saltimbocca tastes so good you just want to keep eating it

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Saltimbocca is a dish made traditionally with veal, but also with chicken or pork, in combination with prosciutto and fresh sage leaves, sometimes including a slice of Italian Fontina cheese and even topped with capers.

Italian for “jumps in the mouth,” saltimbocca is a dish that you just want to keep eating because it tastes so good.

It’s a popular dish in southern Switzerland, Spain, Greece and Italy, especially Rome. The most famous version of this dish is saltimbocca alla Romana, which consists of thinly sliced veal, prosciutto or ham, and sage, all rolled-up and cooked in Marsala wine and butter. This dish is deceptively simple, as is the wine.

Whether you use pork, veal or chicken, you’ll need to pound the meat until thin, about one-eighth-inch thick. Then just top each slice with a couple strips of prosciutto or thinly sliced ham, and sage. Saltimbocca can then be sautéed flat or rolled.

Another way of preparing this dish is by using a thick pork chop and stuffing it with chopped sage, prosciutto and Fontina cheese. Brown the chops in a pan and finish them off in the oven. A buttery lemon sauce is then poured over them. Serve with wilted spinach and bacon dressing.

Saltimbocca alla Romana

2 cloves garlic

1 lbs. veal top round

3 large sage leaves for each cutlet

2 slices prosciutto for each cutlet

4 Tbsps. butter

3/4 cup dry Marsala wine

Cut the veal into thin slices and flatten with a wooden mallet. Mash together garlic with salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind that the prosciutto is also salty) to form a paste. Spread a little of the paste on the veal slices and arrange 3 sage leaves on top of each. Cover each slice with 2 thin slices of prosciutto. Roll them up and close them with a toothpick lengthwise.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until shimmering. Lightly dust the rollups with flour and sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes, turning once. Transfer the cooked saltimbocca to a platter and loosely cover with foil to keep warm.

Pour off any excess oil from the skillet, then pour in Marsala wine and deglaze the skillet, scraping up any brown bits. Add butter and cook until the liquid is syrupy. Pull off the toothpicks from the rollups and drizzle the sauce over them. Serve with linguini with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Saltimbocca can also be sautéed flat, rather than rolled. Just use toothpicks to hold the prosciutto and sage in place. Saute veal, prosciutto side down, for about 1 minute. Turn over and sauté 30 seconds, or until the veal is just cooked through.

Pork Chops Saltimbocca with Wilted Spinach and Bacon Dressing

2 (1-inch-thick) center-cut rib pork chops

4 sage leaves, finely chopped

2 very thin slices Italian Fontina cheese

4 thin slices prosciutto

2 Tbsps. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 (10-oz.) bag fresh spinach, stems discarded

1 small white onion, thinly sliced

4 oz. sliced button mushrooms

1 jar prepared bacon dressing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with rack in the middle. Cut a deep, wide pocket in each pork chop. Sprinkle half of sage into each pocket and stuff pockets with cheese and prosciutto. Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook chops until undersides are golden, about 2 minutes, then turn chops over and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

While chops cook, mix spinach, onions and mushrooms in a large bowl. Heat about one-half cup of bacon dressing and pour over spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer chops to a platter. Add butter and lemon juice to hot skillet, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then pour sauce over pork. Serve with wilted spinach and bacon dressing. Makes 2 servings.

Chicken Saltimbocca

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 fresh whole sage leaves, plus 4 minced leaves

4 (6-8 oz. each) chicken cutlets

4 slices thinly sliced prosciutto

4 tsps. olive oil

3/4 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup chicken broth

1 Tbsp. cold butter

In a shallow bowl, stir together flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside. Lay one sage leaf lengthwise on each cutlet, and then wrap a prosciutto slice around middle of each cutlet, encasing sage. Flatten with the palm of your hand to help prosciutto adhere to the chicken. Dredge cutlets in seasoned flour; tap off excess.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Cook 2 cutlets until golden-brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove cutlets and keep warm. Repeat with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and 2 cutlets.

Add wine and broth to skillet; cook over high heat until reduced by three-quarters, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool one minute. Add butter and minced sage; stir until butter is melted, about 30 seconds. Spoon sauce over cutlets; serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes

1 Tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. milk

1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained and reserve liquid

8 marshmallows

Bake sweet potatoes at 450 degrees until soft. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise and scoop out potato, leaving shell intact. Mash sweet potatoes with butter, salt and milk, along with 1/2 cup crushed pineapple. Add a little more milk or butter if necessary. Fill sweet potato shells. Slice marshmallows in half and top each sweet potato with two halves. Top with a spoonful of crushed pineapple. Put reserved pineapple syrup or juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Drizzle each sweet potato with a little of the juice. Place sweet potatoes under broiler and broil until browned. Makes 8 servings.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.