Sunday, May 28, 2006

“How can a man die when he has Sage …”

Attributed to Hippocrates, as well as an ancient Arab proverb, “How can a man die when he has Sage growing in his garden?”

It seems everyone has been in on the Sage secret for thousands of years.

It supposedly cured every possible disease. It was known to clear the mind and sharpened the senses. It was a powerful aphrodisiac, the original Viagra.

And around here it grows like a weed. Half of southern California must be covered in some form of Sage, even if it is not all necessarily edible.

The list of attributes is long, most likely because the flavor is strong and wonderful.

Still on the recovery, I chose Sage as the featured herb this week, along with a spin on a classic recipe, for , sponsored this week by .

This is something I’ve made forever. Maybe more of a winter dish. But today was not so hot here, and everyone really enjoyed the roasted in flavors and substantial nature of this dish.

It is a take on Saltimbocca. Usually done with veal. But, although we sacrifice any number of chickens to our appetites, baby cows get amnesty. So I changed it to chicken ‘steaks’.

I used to use real Prosciutto in the recipe, but we don’t live in Europe anymore, where the real stuff is actually available, and besides, for everyday, no one really but me really appreciates the extra flavor, salt and fat enough. So I just leave it out. If you like, you can place some Prosciutto between the Sage and the Mozzerella. That makes this dish a special treat.

For the chicken, I use boneless breasts. There was a time when a chicken breast represented one serving. They weighed maybe ¼ to ½ of a pound or so. Over the years, they have gotten so big – now weighing in sometimes at close to one pound each. I bought 6 boneless breasts today and that came to over 5 pounds of meat.

That is just too much for one normal portion. So I use a technique I learned in Vienna. When you get a real Wiener Schnitzel, not a tourist variety, the veal is always cut thin. Never pounded. Pounding kills any chance that the cutlet will remain juicy. So if the breasts are too large, I cut them in half the long way into two thinner chicken cutlets. This results in a portion that is reasonably sized per person, plus something that responds to a cooking in a reasonable manner – i.e it is actually cooked through before it becomes overcooked.

Sometimes I use fresh Buffa Mozzerella melted on top. Sometimes I use the ‘aged’ Mozzerella, common to the US. The ‘aged’ Mozzerella broils better, and some like that super stringy result. Today I used the aged variety.

In any event, the resulting dish highlights the wonderful flavor and intensity of Sage. And the Sage hopefully heals, cleanses, and performs all its other reputed super powers on our poor bodies. Because we could sure use it!

Chicken ‘Saltimbocca’ ala surfindaave
Recipe by surfindaave

4 chicken breasts (if very large, cut in half the long way)
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
4-5 cups roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped roughly (or two 32 oz cans)
splash of red wine
salt, pepper
1 bunch fresh sage
1 mozzarella, either fresh Buffa, or aged
1 slice of prosciutto per chicken breast, if desired

Heat olive oil in a skillet until hot. Season the breasts lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté the chicken breasts until browned on one side, turn and brown on other side, and remove to a plate and reserve.

In the same pan, add some additional olive oil. Over medium heat, sauté the onion until it softens. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add wine, and deglaze pan. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Crush tomatoes roughly with wooden spoon. Let the tomato sauce cook, uncovered, over medium low heat, until reduced and thickened.

Set the chicken breasts on top of the tomato sauce and let heat through for a few minutes. Turn the chicken breasts. Arrange fresh sage leaves on top of each breast. If using, place a piece of prosciutto on top of the sage. Place one or two slices of mozzarella cheese over the sage leaves. Remove the skillet from the heat and place under the broiler until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Blogger Kalyn said...

I love the sound of this. There's a store here that sells what they call "chicken cutlers" which are the chicken breasts already cut lengthwise in the way you describe. I always get some when they go on sale. Sage always reminds me of my grandma, it was her favorite herb.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous sher said...

OH YUM!!!!!!! That looks heavenly. That's my kind of dish. And sage grows abundantly up here in Northern, CA too. I have 5 different kinds in my backyard. Tough little buggers they are!

12:06 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Kalyn, Sher,

Thanks for the comments!

This is one of our all time favorites. A recipe I've made and adapted for 20 years now.

5:16 PM  

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