If the way to someone’s heart is through the stomach, then the vehicle that I am taking is Chicken Saltimbocca.
Simple in construction yet slightly taxing to make*, this dish is as perfect for entertaining as it is for a quiet dinner for two.
*The asterisk can’t wait…”slightly taxing” is a polite understatement. This dish is a pain to make with all the pounding, flouring, breading, stuffing, sautéing, and baking. Absolute pain. And to make matters worse, it’s an unforgiving dish: if you mess up any part of it, you can compromise the quality of the whole dish. Once you master it, though, you’re gold. You will make it in front of other people, and those people will say, “That looks easy enough…!” And then you can bask in the glow of Ryan-Seacresting the heck out of Chicken Saltimbocca.
(Ali Glossary: To “Ryan Seacrest” is to make something that is difficult to do look absolutely easy and effortless. If you think anyone could do Ryan Seacrest’s job(s), think again – he is Ryan Seacrest because he makes very difficult on-air work look easy.)
All right, this is a long recipe so let’s get on with it…
- Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts OR Chicken Tenderloins – If you want to make full-size portions of Chicken Saltimbocca, you can use chicken breasts. I prefer to make smaller size pieces so I use the tenderloins. Use as many as you like depending on how many people you are serving. The chicken keeps really well so if you make too much, you can easily store it.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Bread Crumbs – Your choice on what kind. I prefer Panko breadcrumbs.
- Prosciutto – A dry-cured ham from Italy. Buy this from the deli and if possible, be sure that you buy a true prosciutto crudo di Parma which has only two ingredients: pork and salt. You will need 1 to 1.5 slices for each piece of chicken depending on your preferences.
- Basil – I know I don’t have to say this to regular readers, but you need fresh basil. Do not use dry. Ever.
- Cheese – You can use whatever kind of cheese you like: Mozzarella, Fontina, or Provolone. I prefer Fontina, but it’s up to you. Cheese provides flavor and moisture to the dish, so use something good.
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Wooden Cutting Board
- Meat Mallet
- Waxed Paper
- 3 Shallow Dipping/Breading Dishes – One each for flour, eggs, breadcrumbs
- Fork or Whisk
- Toothpicks (just in case you need to hold the rolls together)
- 2 plates – 1 to hold raw pounded chicken and one to hold the finished breaded rolls
- Heavy bottom skillet
- Measuring Spoons
- Baking Dish
- Oven –Pre-Heat to 375F
- Paper Towels
- Pour yourself a glass of wine and put on some good music or a good movie on in the background because you are going to be busy for a while.
- Gather your ingredients:
- Grab your chicken, meat mallet, waxed paper, and cutting board.
- Trim the chicken if you like – I do. I am very picky about tendons and all that.
- Place a piece of chicken between the folds of a piece of waxed paper and use the meat mallet to pound the chicken gently until it is paper-thin. This takes time and patience. If you pound the chicken too hard, you will make holes in it. If this happens, don’t despair – I have a trick for you below.
- Repeat with each piece of chicken.
- Once you have pounded each piece of chicken, it’s time to stuff. I know I don’t have to tell you to wash your hands…
- On another cutting board, get your stuffing ready. Lay out the Prosciutto. Cut the cheese into cubes. I do a 1.5-2.5 inch cube depending on how big my chicken pieces are. If you use a soft cheese like fresh mozzarella, I recommend tossing this in the freezer for a bit to prevent it from melting out before the chicken is completely cooked.
- Lay out each piece of chicken. You may elect to season the chicken if you like with salt and pepper. I usually use pepper no matter what, but use caution with the salt: prosciutto is salty and if your cheese is also salty…well, you know what will happen if you also season the meat. Taste the cheese and prosciutto first, and then decide if you want to season the chicken before you stuff it.
- Layer the stuffing as follows: Slice of prosciutto, basil, and cheese in the middle on top:
- Roll the chicken up. This can be tricky. If you are looking at the photo above, the best way to roll up the chicken is to grab the end furthest to the right and fold it over the cheese tucking in one on the sides (top or bottom) as you go. Make one roll and then grab the other side and tuck on the final roll. Secure the ends with toothpicks if needed.
- Time to bread the chicken. Set up your breading dishes. Pour flour into the first dish. Crack the eggs into the second dish and scramble lightly. Pour breadcrumbs into the final dish. I season my breadcrumbs with a little fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, but that’s not required. Place the dishes in order (flour, eggs, breadcrumbs).
- Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour and then dip it into the egg. Finally, coat each piece in breadcrumbs. Repeat for each piece of chicken.
- Preheat the oven to 375F if you have not already done so.
- Heat your skillet over medium-high heat and add about 2 tbs. of olive oil to the pan.
- Sautee the chicken in the hot oil until golden brown on all sides. I work in larger batches for this, but I make sure that I have room between each piece.
- Remove the browned chicken to a paper towel to drain. When you are finished sautéing all of the chicken, place all of the pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet. When you are done, your rolls will look similar to this:
- Place the sheet in the oven and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes or until the juices run clear. You can cut into an average-sized piece to test for doneness.
- When the chicken is done, remove it and let it rest for a few minutes to calm the juices down.
- Enjoy. You can serve this with a side of pasta, vegetables, or with a simple salad.