So many of our beloved dishes come to us by way of adaptation from the original. This was especially true of Italian American neighborhoods where everyone, it seems, was busy reinventing old world classics in a new world. Our chicken with plum tomato and prosciutto has its origins in the traditional veal saltimbocca—translation, “jumps in the mouth.” In Italy this would be served as a separate course, following a vegetable or pasta, but feel free to serve accompaniments right alongside the chicken if you prefer. Try it with our Lemon-Spinach Orzo
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 18-20 minutes
1. Place a piece of chicken on a cutting board and hold it down gently with one hand. With a sharp knife, make a horizontal cut through the chicken about 1/3 down from the top. Repeat process at the 2/3 level. You should now have 3 pieces of chicken fillet roughly equal in thickness. Repeat for the other two breast halves. You should have 9 pieces total.
2. Placing chicken fillets 2 or 3 at a time in a single layer between sheets of wax paper, and using a wooden food mallet or rolling pin (or even the bottom of a wine bottle), lightly pound the fillets. Start in the center of each piece and work outward to both ends to flatten the poultry. This will tenderize it. Pound all the chicken in the same way and set aside. The fillets should be about 1/4 inch thick or less.
3. Heat half the oil in a wide skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Place 3-4 chicken fillets carefully in the oil, leaving a little space between them. Avoid crowding the pan for even cooking. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes per side until edges begin to brown. Now place a slice of prosciutto on each fillet and one slice of cheese on top of the prosciutto. Cover the pan and reduce heat. Allow fillets to finish cooking and cheese to begin melting, about 3 minutes.
4. Remove them to a warmed serving platter and repeat as above, adding more oil, until all fillets are cooked. Return heat under the skillet to medium high and add the garlic cloves (lightly smash them first carefully by pressing down on them with the flat edge of a knife) and marsala or wine, and cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly. Add tomatoes to the pan and dried sage or oregano, stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
5. To serve: With a kitchen spoon, scoop tomato pieces from the pan and place over the center of each fillet on the serving platter (discarding the garlic cloves). Garnish with any green herb you may have on hand and scatter a little black pepper over all. Serve with a side of pasta (you can use the extra sauce to flavor the pasta) and greens, or with our Lemon-Spinach Orzo, and invite guests to the table.