A few months ago, I went to my friend Monique’s for lunch. She served a phenomenal dish that Chef Mario Batali had offered up in Food and Wine Magazine. Ever since I went to school in Rome, I’ve loved Saltimbocca alla Romana, the Roman version of a dish popular from southern Switzerland to all the way down to the capital city. Saltimbocca translates to ‘jump in the mouth’ which is about as high praise as any dish can get. The original dish uses Veal topped with prosciutto and sage. In Rome, chefs add another dimension by rolling up the veal, prosciutto
|Expensive but worth every penny.
and sage and cooking the rolls in dry white wine. Sweet Marsala wine is an option but most Roman chefs think this overpowers the delicate flavor of the Veal. Mario Batali has substituted chicken cutlets and he makes his sauce using Vin Santo, literally Holy Wine, a sweet dessert wine from Tuscany. And there lies the reason why I had waited all these months to make the dish. It was well worth the wait.
|Communion of the Apostles
Vin Santo is made using dried white grapes. It gets its name because it was very often used as Communion wine as seen in this painting of the Communion of the Apostles from the collection of the Duc de Berry. In addition to its ties to holiness, Vin Santo also has the distinction of being incredibly expensive. A small bottle of Vin Santo can set you back anywhere from $16.00 to something only the Vatican could afford. Now I will confess to having tried to substitute a much less expensive sweet wine, a Moscato, in this dish. It just didn’t work. I gritted my teeth and sprung for the real thing. Andrew and I were not disappointed. So while I wish this dish were a bargain, it really is no such thing. The least expensive item on the ingredients list is the boneless chicken breasts. But once you’ve wrapped them in the requisite prosciutto, they’re twice the price. In this case, they’re worth every penny. The crisp prosciutto covers the chicken and sage with salty goodness, the sweet asparagus is not only a perfect partner, it makes the dish look glorious. And then there’s the Vin Santo and butter, coating the chicken with a sauce you won’t be able to get enough of. So treat yourself to a dinner that’s quick and easy to prepare and tastes expensive…because it is. Here is the recipe: