You should know that I am an unabashed homer. Give me the Jerry Remys, the Andy Brickleys of the world — I am not looking for fair and balanced reporting. I want reporting with passion, and I want folks on my side. (My former journalism professors are no doubt developing an odd twitch somewhere off in academia right now).
With that preface, I must confess a somewhat irrational love for the eateries in my office building and the vendors at the farmer’s market on the square. There are notable exceptions, of course, and my equally irrational disdain is felt with similar passion. For what is food without passion (says the good little Italian)?
Please understand that this means I will make brazen claims that Narragansett Creamery makes the best mozzarella you can buy stateside (they do), that tasting Burdick’s hot chocolate will change your definition of cocoa (it will), and that Iggy’s sliced Francese makes the world go round (it does…or at the very least makes my midsection round).
These small businesses sustain me — both literally and figuratively — throughout the workday and beyond. Who’s to say what is more warming: the hot cup of coffee in my hand from Croissant du Jour, or the familiar wave and smile of the gal who, with a nod, has already filled my cup with my usual order before I get to the register?
All of which is to say that I have a massive crush on Bacco’s Wine & Cheese. At the risk of sounding like a complete wino, let’s just say that I was singlehandedly able to wrap all of my wedding centerpieces in recycled Bacco’s bags to ensure safe transport to and from the venue. So I may or may not frequent this particular shop regularly. They may or may not know me on a first name basis. Sigh.
Aside from the well-curated, rotating selection of wines, Bacco’s boasts an above-average selection of domestic and imported cheeses, with a modest accompaniment of charcuterie, condiments, and chocolates. (Not to mention the rather addictive and hard-to-find blood orange San Pellegrino.) If that weren’t enough, they carry daily special entrees from Pigalle, and a “bento box” lunch of two daily cheese selections, salami, bread and condiments. And the bread is, yes, from Iggy’s.
The best part about Bacco’s is hands down the staff, however. As an explorer in the world of food (read: painfully indecisive, but adventurous), there’s nothing I enjoy more than recommendations. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go to jot down foods I’d like to try, wines I’ve enjoyed, and favorite cheeses (see the To Eat section of this blog, for example). In addition to daily — yes, daily! — wine and cheese tastings, the staff at Bacco’s never fail to offer suggestions, and are happy to share their food knowledge with you.
Which brings me to today’s recipe. I had the idea kicking around in my head that I’d like to try making a riff on a saltimbocca using Spanish ingredients. The idea started with the rather mundane thought to make saltimbocca using Serrano ham in place of the prosciutto. Then an amontillado in place of the madeira, perhaps? But what of the Fontina? Enter the advice of Em, Bacco’s resident “cheese wiz,” who pointed me towards their Drunken Goat cheese. No amontillado on hand, so with the help of the wine guy, we settled on a Pedro Ximenez dessert sherry, with the understanding that I would cut it with chicken stock. (As an aside — oh, wine guy with the dark hair and proclivity to wear sunglasses on top of your head — I’m sorry! Why don’t I know your name? You know mine! You were the first employee I met there! Bad customer…)
Drunken Goat, unsurprisingly, is a goat’s milk cheese that has been soaked in wine. Unlike the wine-imbued Umbriaco del Piave we served at my sister’s elopement, the wine doesn’t seep into the cheese itself, but instead colors the rind and adds a lovely depth of taste that is quite unlike wine itself. In other words, this isn’t a supermarket port wine cheese spread… More importantly, it was FANTASTIC with the saltimbocca. It kept its own unique, mild but tangy flavor while standing up to the other strong tastes quite handily.
I also enjoyed how the Serrano ham contributed a meatier, less salty flavor than the usual prosciutto. And the sherry? I had my doubts about the sweetness, but it ended up being brilliant. I didn’t have any fresh sage on hand, so, with a guilty conscience, I grabbed my dried sage and added that to the pan sauce instead. In the end, the savory sage helped further counter the sweetness of the sherry, and made for a beautiful and tasty sauce.
Spanish-inspired Chicken Saltimbocca
original recipe by The Hungry Crafter
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1/4 lb. drunken goat cheese, sliced
- 6 slices Serrano ham
- 1/2 c. Pedro Ximenez sherry
- 1/2 c. chicken broth
- dried sage
Pound chicken breasts to 1/4″ thickness; season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer 3 slices of Serrano ham on each breast.
Flip again, so that the ham is facing up again, and layer slices of cheese on top. Cover the pan with a lid to trap the steam and melt the cheese; remove chicken to serving dish as soon as cheese has melted sufficiently and chicken has cooked through (just a few minutes).
Deglaze the pan with sherry, then add chicken broth and a few pats of butter. Measurements for the pan sauce are all approximate — taste, taste, taste! Add sage to taste (I used about 1 t.), adding more sherry or broth to increase or decrease the sweetness to your preference. Let sauce reduce by half, and spoon generously over the chicken.
Quick, easy, but by no means mundane — dinner for two is served!