Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Saltimbocca Alla Romano


Pork saltimbocca alla romano.

The photos aren't pretty (it was too dark) but this is a really really delicious dish! I can't believe I've lived this long and never eaten saltimbocca even though Italian food is one of my top 3 cuisines.

Yi brought some prociutto/parma ham back from Melbourne and they turned out very salty and the flavor was too heavy for my taste. Good prociutto should be smooth, delicately flavored, almost having a floral scent and not 'dead' salty. That's prociutto according to me but then I've never been to Italy. Talking of which, my fav prociutto is not from Italy but from Spain. It doesn't have to be jambon Iberico (which is really NOT over-rated; it really is great) but any serrano ham's excellent, I've found. Anyway, I checked the price label and sure enough, it had a Safeway logo. Never buy your ham from supermarkets, I've often told my kids. The regular sandwich ham is fine but for anything else, you must hit the delis. I love these delis in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Wey found that the Safeway prociutto tasted better cooked and we had some on a caesar salad but there was plenty more to go. Then I remembered a cookbook, Rome: Authentic Recipes Celebrating The Foods Of The World by Maureen B. Fant, which had a recipe for a prociutto-lined veal called saltimbocca alla romana, a Roman specialty. The prociutto flavored the meat with its saltiness and savory sweetness while the sage, butter and wine combination gave the meat a most wonderful flavor and aroma, so Italian I imagined I was somewhere in Tuscany. This is a perfect way to use up prociutto that's not good enough for eating plain. This dish is so simple to cook that NO ONE can go wrong with it.

Since veal can hardly be found here, I settled for pork loin. You can use a beef tenderloin or chicken too if pork is not your meat. I can see myself serving this as an appetiser next time I have a dinner party. I can see the saltimbocca rolled and cut, topped with a cube of crusty bread toasted in olive oil and garlic, elegantly served as canapes with toothpicks holding them together. And to cut the saltiness, some cubes of rock melon too. Ohhh. With a white wine and my family's high approval of the dish last night, I really felt la dolce vita, except for a little pain in my heart.



Pork/Veal/Chicken Saltimbocca
12 pieces meat escalopes of your choice
8-10 (more if your escalopes are large pieces) thinly sliced prociutto
12 or more fresh sage leaves
freshly ground black pepper
about 4 T plain flour
2 T unsalted butter
4 oz dry white wine

wooden toothpicks

1. Slice the meat into thin pieces of 1/4" or 1/2 cm thick and pound it with a meat mallet to tenderize.

2. Lay a piece of prociutto over the meat, trim to size with scissors and lay a piece or two of sage leaves on top of the prociutto, securing with a wooden toothpick. The leftover cut pieces of procuitto can be used the same way, just patch them together on the meat.

3. When ready to cook, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan. Lightly coat the pieces of meat all over with the flour, shake off excess, and place 6 pieces of escalopes prociutto side down into the buttered pan. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, then turn over to cook another 4-5 minutes at low heat. You can grind some black pepper over now or later when the meat's on the plate. There's really no need to salt the meat because the prociutto will be salty enough. Remove the cooked saltimbocca onto a serving plate. Repeat with remaining escalopes.

4. Add the wine to the pan, increase the heat to medium high and deglaze the pan by loosening the brown bits with a ladle. Let the liquid evaporate into half the original amount and drizzle (because there's not much) it over the saltimbocca.

I served them with golden olive oil roasted potatoes but bread is good too.

Update: Lunchguy, a chef based in Bangkok,has some invaluable tips for cooking this dish. The prociutto can be sandwiched between two slices of meat (pls refer to comments for details) and he suggests seedless white grapes as garnishing, a perfect choice. I love!


Zurin said...

aaawwwww so Yi's going to the netherlands after all!!!! good for her...n ull be following soon!!!

its only 6 months ...why dont u spend 6 months thre as well Terri...u have a good excuse no? mm sure theyll survivr without u for a while.:))

Plain Jane said...

yummmm....me want some....

Big Boys Oven said...

wowI want I want, looks so superb! :)

Unknown said...

Terri, it came to a point that I just have to say this... its not that nice to tease your readers with all those goodies!!!!!

Terri said...

Terri - Simple but delicious! Luckily I have a couple of boneless pork loin chops in the freezer. Dinner tomorrow night!

terri@adailyobsession said...

zurin: i would love to spend a couple of months travelling europe but i can't bc my mom needs me to monitor her meds :(( i'll think of smthing.

plainjane:you make some soon...

bbo: can can, make it soon.

johnathan: yes, i;m a teaser :D

terri: hi, how r u? how did your saltimbocca turn out?

Sophie said...

appetizer or meal, this would be tasty as both! I've had prosciutto only a handful of times, but I need to try more varieties--can't say I've ever had the spanish version.

terri@adailyobsession said...

sophie: oh u must try the spanish ham n tell me what you think.

the lunch guy said...

looks good, i understand what you are saying about the saltiness of the ham though.

i first cooked this dish in a restaurant where it was so popular that we always had at least 2 or 3 pans on the stove with 3 or 4 orders in each. being one to not want to prep too far in advance i had to come up with a way to get this dish on the stove and out of the kitchen with as little hassle as possible, but being certain it retained all its qualities.

i see that you have used skewers to keep the assembly together, and others like to roll them up to keep them intact, but what we did was rather quite simple.

Note: we used either imported dutch veal or local organic when it was available, and veal is quite tender and easy to use. just very hard to find a good piece and also very expensive. the method i am about to explain will probably work well with chicken too, but maybe not so well with pork. chicken tends to be sticky and pork is not.

the method we developed was to simply pound the meat to only half the desired thickness before service time. then when an order came in we would place the ham and the sage on top of one piece, cover with another piece that is also not yet fully pounded (do not make a perfect sandwich as it were, but overlap the three layers. this way a bit of the ham and sage will touch the pan and take on a bit of that flavor), sandwich these between pieces of wax paper or plastic, and then pound until thin with the pebbled side of your meat mallet. handle with care and it should remain intact until it goes on the plate.

what this also achieves is that most the ham does not come in direct contact with the pan, which will stave off some of the saltiness that is to be expected of a cured piece of meat when it is put to the fire.

when i was finishing this dish, and making the sauce, i would also add peeled, seedless white grapes. (yes, a time consuming and menial task, but one that lends a great refreshing accent, and looks just fantastic on the plate.)

its all in the details.

terri@adailyobsession said...

i am so blessed to hav your professional tips, lunch guy. i have added your tips to the main post. i esp like the idea of white grapes. they cut the saltiness and enhances the whole dish don't they:))

the lunch guy said...

i am happy to contribute. glad you liked it.

if anyone ever has any questions about cooking they can always send me a message and i will try to assist.

after 20+ years of being a chef and food and beverage manager i spent the following 5 to 6 years teaching and consulting. i found it to be very rewarding. the master chef that i trained with, who was my mentor, always told us that there are no secrets to what we do, and that if someone wants to know something tell them. (as long as they will use the info and not just collect it.) even in his restaurants he freely offers recipes and advice. unlike many who feel they must guard their techniques and recipes he knows that no 2 people can cook alike and that there is no need to be over protective. his philosophy is that the more people who know and understand food, and wish to cook themselves, the better off we all are. for educated palettes are what we all aspire to.

the most important thing he taught me was that once you have a grasp of the basics and the traditional you should use that knowledge to expand on what already exists. push the limits and rely on your inspiration, the spirit of the moment and try to only use what's fresh and seasonal. think out side the (lunch) box as it were. do not be rigid.

terri@adailyobsession said...

lunchguy: you know, tt is truly unselfish n i agree with tt. i think it's more a western thing to share recipes fully. and it's true, no two cooks cook alike even with the same recipe. heck, i don't even cook the same dishes same sometimes, try as i might.

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