Veal Saltimbocca with Polenta and Sautéed Baby Brussels sprouts.
Veal saltimbocca achieves its unique flavor profile through the combination of three main ingredients that work in perfect unison together. The soft, velvety and sweat meat from the veal combines with the woodsy, smoky and salty flavor of the prosciutto. This perfect pairing is then offset by the unmistakable flavors of fresh sage, which has been cooked in its own pocket formed between the veal and prosciutto. This pocket keeps all the flavors and moisture, from the sage, trapped so that with each bite you receive a burst of flavor. The side dishes were picked carefully to give the taster an array of textures and flavors on their plate. Each bite of the saltimbocca could be followed by the, sweet, vegetal, baby brussel sprouts or a palate cleansing bite of creamy polenta topped with melted Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Pairing a wine with this dish can be a bit tricky though. Imagine, you have the veal which, with its subtle flavors, could be overpowered by too big of a wine. Then there’s the prosciutto and sage, each lending its own intense yet totally different flavors. I almost went with a white but, with winter around the corner, a part of me craved red and so I decided to pair two wines that are very different from each other but both with the potential to pair well with the veal.
2006 Riccardo Talenti Rosso di Montalcino – When researching this dinner it was widely suggested to pair it with a Sangiovese based wine. This Rosso di Montalcino seemed the perfect candidate as aromas of dusty dried flowers, cranberry, herbs and smoked meats formed a beautiful bouquet for the wine. It was light on the palate with zippy acidity, which worked wonders with the food and showed cherry fruit, sage and minerals. However, there was one drawback: it was so well matched to the veal saltimbocca that it provided very little contrast. To pick up sage in the wine while having it on my plate was a bit odd. It was, however, an excellent Rosso di Montalcino and a perfect way to explore Sangiovese if you’re someone who loves Chianti and is searching for something more.
1999 J. Hofstatter Lagrein – Sudtirol Steinraffler - Lagrein may not be a wine that you hear much about in the United States but I urge you to seek one out and, if you’re looking for one of the best producers, look no further than Hofstatter. The nose was full of dark red fruits, fall leaves, caramel, musk and damp earth, forming the perfect contrast to the saltimbocca’s sharp and pungent aromas. It was hard to take my nose from this glass as it continued to evolve over the course of the meal. On the palate it was soft and elegant while showing black cherry, plum and extra dark chocolate. All of this was carried gracefully by this wine's brisk acidity, which also worked well to prepare the palate for the next bite of saltimbocca. The finish was long with cherry fruit and added further complexities to each bite of veal.
My guests took their time with each glass and the food on their plate. It was a meal centered on savoring each sip and every bite. At first, the Rosso Di Montalcino seemed to be the crowd favorite but, as the meal came to a close, it was the Lagrein that won out. Where the Rosso was bright and engaging in the mouth, the Lagrein was soft and caressing. When thinking back to why this worked so well, it seems apparent to me now. Since the veal saltimbocca is such an assault of flavors on your senses, the Lagrein worked to temper it and refresh you for the next bite. It allowed us to taste each bite as if it was our first which, in my opinion, is the result of a perfect wine pairing. Follow this link to donwload a printable pdf of Eric's recipe.
This recipe is all about the preparation. The ingredients are simple but require everything to be at the peek of freshness. The sage should be a deep, rich color and the odor should be intense. The prosciutto should be sliced the same day you plan to cook it and I would advise looking for an imported prosciutto (look for Prosciutto di Parma). I have found domestic prosciutto to be tougher and saltier which would overcome the delicate flavors of the veal. Serves 4
4 veal cutlets (Ask you butcher to make sure they are all cut to equal size. I like to have them about ¼ pound each)
5 slices of Prosciutto di Parma (The extra slice is for you to eat while you cook.)
6 - 8 fresh sage leaves
¼ cup minced parsley
½ cup of flour
½ cup of white wine
1 cup veal stock (or beef stock)
2 Tbls butter (cubed and at room temperature)
- Lay you veal out and place one or two sage leaves on top of each slice of veal. Use your judgment with the sage; it is not meant to cover the veal, it is just a seasoning. Lay a slice of prosciutto over the veal and sage of each cutlet.
- Take a sheet of plastic wrap and lay it across the veal cutlets. (Tip: if you have a canola or olive oil spray, lightly spray the side of the plastic wrap that will be touching the veal.)
- With a flat meat tenderizer, gently tenderize the veal cutlets so that they are flattened out and notice that the prosciutto will flatten with them. This process not only helps to cook them evenly but also makes the prosciutto adhere to the veal. Remove the plastic wrap gently and make sure that the prosciutto does not peel away as you remove the plastic.
- Place the ½ cup of flour onto a plate and spread it out. Now take a veal cutlet and lay it on the flour, prosciutto side down. Season the underside of the cutlet, very lightly with salt and pepper. Now turn it over and make sure to coat the entire cutlet with an even coat of flour but remove any excess. Repeat this step with all the cutlets and set them aside.
- Prepare your pan. (I like to use a heavy-gauge roasting pan because it allows the meat to have room to cook and helps to reduce your pan sauces quickly.) Turn the heat to medium-high and add enough canola oil to just barely cover the surface of the pan. (You can use light olive oil, but don’t use extra virgin because it will burn). Also preheat your oven to 250 degrees (this is only to keep the meat warm while you make the sauce) and place the 1 cup of veal stock into a small pot and begin to warm it.
- Once the oil in the pan begins to shimmer lay your veal slices, prosciutto side down, into the pan. Allow them to cook for anywhere between 3 - 4 minutes and then flip them.
- When they have cooked for another 3 - 4 minutes, remove them from the pan and place them into the oven.
- Pour off any excess oil from your pan and return it to the burners. Add the white wine and, as it reduces, scrape off any cooked on bits from the bottom of the pan.
- When the alcohol has cooked off, add the warmed veal stock and allow the sauce to reduce by half. Turn off the heat and taste. Now season with salt and pepper to taste and add your cubed butter. Stir until combined. You can strain the sauce if you like or serve it as is.
- Place the veal on a warmed plate and spoon the sauce over each cutlet. Sprinkle with the minced parsley and serve.