Chicken of the Woods Saltimbocca

Better late than never. The spring chicken of the woods season has likely ended for those living in more southern climes, but those in the north might still be finding them. The season is basically over in Nebraska, and unfortunately,  I sat on this recipe for too long. The good news is that this mushroom also grows in the fall, so you might have a chance to try this recipe later in the year. 

Saltimbocca is an Italian dish that literally translates to "jumps in the mouth." It is traditionally made with veal, but I've also seen recipes prepared with chicken or pork. I wanted to do something special with the chicken of the woods mushrooms that we harvested, which resembled large "cutlets" of meat. 

The flavors of salty prosciutto, brown butter and fried sage were well-suited to the chicken-like texture and flavor of COTW. The name of this dish might sound fancy– "saltimbocca"– but the dish itself is fairly simple. Considering how flavorful it is, ingredients are few. 

Servings: 2
- 1 pound of chicken of the woods mushrooms, flatter pieces preferable 
- 2 to 3 slices of prosciutto per mushroom piece
- Small handful of sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 4 tablespoons of cold butter, separated 
- 1 small shallot, minced 
- Splash of Madeira wine 
- 1 cup of unsalted chicken stock
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

1. If your mushrooms are thick, you'll want to finish them in the oven to cook them through. Therefore if needed, preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit.  

2. Cut mushrooms into pieces about the size of your palm. Drape 2 to 3 slices of prosciutto over each piece, and then use a toothpick to secure a sage leaf through the prosciutto and mushroom. 

If you have trouble pushing the toothpick through the mushroom, it's OK. Do your best. Once the prosciutto fries, it will keep its shape. 

3. In a pan, heat 1 tbs. of olive oil and 2 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. When hot, sear mushrooms prosciutto side down until golden and slightly crispy. Turn over and brown the other side of the mushrooms. Cook in batches if needed. Move mushrooms to a plate and keep warm.

(If you'd like extra crispy sage leaves on the side– and why wouldn't you?– fry them alongside the mushrooms until crispy.)

If mushrooms are thick, move them to a baking sheet and finish cooking them in a 400° oven for about 10 minutes. 

 4. To make the sauce, lower heat in the pan to medium. Add shallot and a pinch of salt and sauté until softened. Then deglaze pan with a splash of Madeira wine, scrape the bottom of the pan and simmer until alcohol evaporates. Then add chicken stock and reduce by half. Take off heat, stir in remaining cold butter and season to taste. 

Remove toothpicks before serving mushrooms with sauce drizzled on top.