The word “saltimbocca” translates from Italian to mean “jump in the mouth”, and each saltimbocca dish – whether it is made with veal or chicken – does just that. The combination of flavors from the meat, the herbs (fresh sage is usually included), and prosciutto is remarkable; mouths are always happy in that company.
Classic saltimbocca is usually made by pounding the meat until it is very thin, dressing it with a fresh sage leaf, covering it with a layer of prosciutto (secured with a toothpick or two), dusting it in flour, and searing it in an oil-lined skillet until the meat is just cooked through. The result is wonderful, though I tend to like this dish a bit more on the substantial side.
The following recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are NOT pounded, but left in their usual state. Sage is substituted with fresh basil – so abundant now – and the lovely, salty taste of the prosciutto is paired with the mellow tartness of provolone cheese. Forget the stovetop for this recipe: bathe the wrapped chicken in a luscious mixture of chicken broth and white wine, and bake the breasts in the oven for half an hour or so. Afterwards, the liquids will have not only flavored the meats but will have taken on the taste of them, reduced beautifully, and can be used as a fabulous sauce on the finished product.
Serve this dish with roasted asparagus and pasta dressed with a golden tomato pan-sauce for a plate that will dazzle the eyes. After all, why should mouths have all the fun?
[NOTE: The slideshow that accompanies this article shows 3 pieces of saltimbocca; the recipe below is for 6 pieces, but can be halved.]
Oven Baked Chicken Saltimbocca
• 6 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
• 12 large fresh basil leaves
• 6 ounces thickly sliced provolone cheese
• 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
• 1 cup chicken broth (or more if needed)
• 1 cup dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio (or more if needed)
Preheat the oven to 375⁰.
Place 2 basil leaves on each chicken breast. Cover the leaves with one slice of provolone cheese. Using two slices of prosciutto, wrap each chicken breast until the chicken is completely covered. Place the wrapped chicken breasts in a single layer onto a baking dish.
Evenly pour the chicken broth and the wine over the chicken, using enough liquid so that the chicken is halfway submerged. (You may need more than 1 cup of each liquid, depending on the size of your baking dish.)
Bake the chicken, uncovered, for 25 – 30 minutes, until the prosciutto is crispy and the liquid has reduced by half.
Serve immediately, spooning the remaining baking liquid over the chicken as a sauce.