Saltimbocca with a twist
One of the most beloved of Roman recipes is Saltimbocca, a simple dish whose very name - literally, "It jumps in your mouth" - reflects the joy of eating it. Quick, easy and delicious, it's little more than a thin, pounded slice of veal topped with a few fresh sage leaves and a slice of prosciutto, rolled or laid flat, skewered with toothpicks and sauteed in butter.
The original is a delight ... and it's easy to come up with tasty variations, substituting chicken or turkey-breast scalloppine for the veal, for instance, or replacing the prosciutto with Spanish serrano or American country ham to create a dish that's just as appetizing if not quite as authentic.
The other night, I went a couple of steps further, coming up with a light dinner dish that's more inspired by saltimbocca than a variation on it: Tender chunks of dark chicken meat topped with a dab of goat cheese and a sprig of tarragon, rolled into neat prosciutto-wrapped packages and briefly baked.
It requires a little cutting, shaping and forming, but it's worth the minimal effort involved to put these tasty little bundles on your plate and watch them jump ... well, you know the rest.INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
3 or 4 chicken thighs, about 1 pound (450g)
1. Put the chicken thighs in a medium saucepan with 2 cups water, the salt, whole peppercorns and the garlic clove, peeled and smashed. Bring to the boil, skim off any frothy scum that rises to the top; reduce heat to very low, cover the pan and cook at a bare simmer for about 30 minutes. Lift out and drain the thighs and set them aside unti they're cool enough to handle. Strain and save the broth for another use. (All this may be done in advance.)
2. Remove and discard the skin and any visible fat from the thighs, and cut each as neatly as you can into two large pieces, discarding the bones and any tough or gristly bits. Don't worry about perfection - your goal is simply to end up with six to eight oblong chunks of boneless, skinless dark meat.
3. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Spread out the prosciutto slices on a large plate or counter top. Place one piece of chicken thigh meat in the center of each. (If you had some smaller scraps of chicken left over, feel free to add them, using the scraps to equalize the size of the smaller pieces.) Put a dab of the goat cheese atop each piece of chicken, and top that with a small sprig of tarragon. (I recommend using no more than 3 or 4 leaves, to avoid the delicious but intense herbal flavor overshadowing the rest. You might also experiment with other fresh herbs, but I find the combination of chicken and tarragon hard to resist.)
4. Lightly grease a baking dish with a little olive oil. Wrap the prosciutto fairly tightly around the chicken, cheese and herbs to make neat packages, and arrange them in the baking dish, seam side down. It shouldn't be necessary to use toothpicks to secure them. Sprinkle a little grated Parmigiano and a bit of freshly ground black pepper over the top and put them in the oven to bake for 5 to 10 minutes, just until they're warmed through and the cheese melts.
MATCHING WINE: This could go with either a light, fruity red or a rich white. It made a perfect match with the full-bodied, aromatic Italian white that I reported in yesterday's 30 Second Wine Advisor, the Feudi San Gregorio 2002 Fiano di Avellino
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Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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