Lilly Higgins: A chicken dinner with an Italian jump-in-the-mouth twist
Chicken breasts fried with prosciutto turn into crispy, salty, flavour bombs
There can never be enough chicken dishes; it’s such a versatile meat and there are so many ways to cook it. I always seek out free-range Irish chicken, as local as possible. Usually the better quality the chicken is, the better flavour and size it will be.
I usually opt for chicken thighs as they’re so much tastier, but for this dish you’ll need chicken breasts. There’s no risk of a dry, flavourless result here as the meat is scattered with finely chopped sage leaves and fried with a slice of salty prosciutto. It’s a really delicious way to cook chicken breasts. The Italian word “saltimbocca” literally translates as “jump in the mouth”, referring to this dish's crispy salty flavour packed into every forkful.
This dish is traditionally made with pork or veal, but can also be made with chicken. Choose large chicken breasts that you can slice and flatten into two pieces of equal thickness, so it cooks evenly. The meaty sage is then scattered over the chicken breast and a blanket of prosciutto laid on top. When it’s fried, prosciutto side down first, it ensures all of the flavour is sealed into the chicken. It’s one of those dishes that tastes so much more complicated than it is to make. You can use basil if you can’t find sage, but sage does work so well with the salty cured pork.
I grow sage in my own garden and use it for this dish and for stuffing. I also throw a few sprigs in with a roast chicken. It’s not one of those everyday herbs, but it does look very pretty and ornamental in the garden as well as smelling delicious. I also sometimes fry sage leaves in butter to top fried eggs or to garnish soup. They look so lovely and are crisp and herbal.
I really love this chicken with mashed potato in winter but at this time of year a bowl of new potatoes, pasta or green beans and some dressed rocket make it an easy midweek dinner.