JUMP TO RECIPE -
I absolutely adore Italians for giving such descriptively spot-on names to foods and dishes – and some are hilariously funny. Calzone – which is of course a type of pizza folded in half – means ‘trousers’ leg’. They have cat’s tongues to dunk in their espresso – delicious little biscuits called lingue di gatto. Roman supplì al telefono – supplì on the phone – are deep fried rice balls (elsewhere known as arancini) filled with mozzarella which hangs in a long string like the telephone cord when you bite into a supplì. And of course (of course!) they have chocolate truffles called Venus' nipples - capezzoli di Venere.
Stinco di maiale is ham hock (stinco meaning ‘shin’) and it just sounds hilarious. And let’s not even start on some pasta names: large thin pasta squares are aptly named fazzoletti (handkerchiefs). Strozzapreti mean ‘priest stranglers’, God and Italians only know why (priests being greedy and eating it so fast they choked?). And puttanesca – slut’s pasta – always makes me grin.
Saltimbocca means ‘jump in the mouth’ and it does just that. Classically made with veal escalopes hammered down thin, adorned with a slice of dry cured ham and a single sage leaf, they are served with marsala or vin santo sauce. I’ve swapped here veal for chicken because such a lovely way of cooking enlivens boring chicken fillets no end. And I skipped the sweet wine sauce to have the meat and ham lovely and crisp.
- one large or two small chicken breast fillets (for two people)
- salt and pepper
- a handful of fresh sage leaves
- 2-3 tbsps grated parmesan
- 2-4 slices of prosciutto or Parma ham
- a little oil and butter for frying
Remove the skin from the chicken fillets (insert a knife anywhere underneath it and just pull it away).
If you’re using one large chicken fillet, lay it on the board removed skin side down and slice it horizontally as evenly as possible. Keep it cut side up and score it in a diagonal pattern with a sharp knife – it will help the sage and ham stick to it better.
Do the same if you're cooking two fillets – place them skin side down, flatten a little with your hand and score the flesh. Season with salt and pepper, scatter over the sage leaves, sprinkle with most of the parmesan and place the prosciutto slices on top to cover the whole fillet. Cover the whole thing with a sheet of cling film and flatten evenly with a mallet until about half an inch thick. Turn the fillets over, still on the cling film, season this side with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Heat the oil in a frying pan large enough to contain the fillets, peel them carefully off the cling film and place in the pan, ham side down. Fry for about 3 minutes until the ham crispens and the edges of the chicken start turning opaque. Turn over, add a knob of butter and fry for another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
I like mine with a drizzle of salad cream and green salad or green veg.