Years ago when we lived in the New York City area, Jim wandered into a little Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village - Minetta Tavern. There, for the first time, he had veal saltimbocca. He returned many times for it, and he’s never forgotten it. Saltimbocca translates to “jumps in the mouth”, and good Saltimbocca does exactly that.
We moved away from the area, Minettta’s has been reinvented as a steakhouse, and Jim has tried saltimbocca in many other restaurants. He never found anything that matched the magic of that Minetta’s specialty.
Until, that is, I took a stab at recreating it for him. It took several attempts… with Jim making helpful suggestions after each — things like, ‘it needs to be served over spinach’ and ‘it needs more sage -- you really need to taste the sage’. Finally, I nailed it. Of course, Jim hasn’t had Minettas’a saltimbocca in over twenty years, so we can’t guarantee that mine is really the same, but it does match Jim’s recollection of their version, and he looks forward to it just as he did a trip to Minetta’s when we lived in the area.
Jane's Veal Saltimbocca
Serves 2, but can easily be scaled up
Preparation and cooking time: about an hour
The Mushroom Sauce
Many restaurant versions of veal saltimbocca use a marsala wine sauce. Although I love marsala sauce, it’s not the right choice for this dish. It overpowers all the other wonderful flavors. I use merlot or cabernet sauvignon. Note that when you are looking to make marsala sauce, this is a good recipe for it. Just substitute marsala for merlot or cabernet sauvignon.
I start by making the sauce and I keep it warm on the stove on a low heat while cooking the veal. The recipe that follows makes more sauce than you’ll need for this dish. You can cut it down, or make it all and use it in other dishes.
3 tablespoons of olive oil
¼ cup of diced onions
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic
½ pound of coarsely chopped baby bella mushrooms
3 tablespoons of flour (you can use whole wheat flour)
½ cup of red wine (merlot or cabernet sauvignon)
1.5 cups of beef or chicken stock or broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Add olive oil to a hot saucepan. Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add flour and cook about 1 minute, then deglaze the pan with the wine. Add stock and cook until thick and flavors are blended, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I always do the sauce before the veal and keep it warm on a very low heat on the stove top, stirring occasionally. Right before serving I turn up the heat and usually add another splash or two of red wine.
2 thin veal scaloppini cutlets (they do NOT need to be very big; each one can just be a few ounces; with everything else in this dish, it makes a substantial meal)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus 8 to 10 sage leaves
Minced garlic, equivalent to 2 cloves
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
2 thin slices of prosciutto (get this at the deli counter and ask for it to be sliced at #1 thickness; I always ask for the best prosciutto they have, which means it’s the prosciutto that’s aged the longest; you’re buying just a very little bit, so the added cost for the best will be minimal)
3+ ounces of Fontina cheese, sliced (if you can’t get Fontina, use Gruyere)
1 5-ounce package of fresh baby spinach
Salt and pepper both sides of the veal. Sprinkle with chopped sage, garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Massage in the seasoning to distribute. Cover and marinate at room temperature for one hour, or refrigerate for several hours and bring to room temperature before cooking.
Turn on the broiler and spray a baking dish with olive oil or canola spray.
Heat olive oil (at medium) in a skillet large enough to hold the veal without overlapping. When the oil gets wavy, add the sage leaves and let them crisp. This may take anywhere from 5 to 60 seconds depending on how hot the oil is. Remove leaves and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel.
Brown the veal in the oil for about 30 to 60 seconds per side (the time depends on how thick they are). Transfer the veal to the prepared baking dish. Do not overlap the pieces.
Top each piece with 3 crisped sage leaves, a slice of prosciutto, and the Fontina cheese.
Broil for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.
Meanwhile, when the veal is under the broiler, drain most of the olive oil out of the pan and sauté the spinach in that pan, until wilted (this just takes a minute or two).
Serve each piece of veal on a bed of spinach, spoon mushroom gravy over it and garnish with any remaining sage leaves.
Serve, and… ENJOY!
This dish is not difficult to make and it’s also not very time-consuming (it takes me a little less than an hour), but we have it only a few times a year. It’s a ‘special occasion’ dish for us. And it’s too good to keep to myself. I recommend that you give it a try. And, I strongly recommend that you make a trip to Central Market for the ingredients. You may not be able to find everything you need in a regular H-E-B. Certainly, you won’t find the quality you can get at Central Market.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.
Saltimbocca translates to jumps in the mouth, and good Saltimbocca does exactly that.