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Filetto di Branzino alla Saltimbocca

Branzino Saltimbocca

Years ago while I was doing research in Rome for writing an article on la cucina romana, Chef Alberto invited me into his restaurant kitchen and taught me several dishes that I love and often serve at home. A specialist in the preparation of fish, he made Saltimbocca with branzino, a type of bass very popular in Mediterranean countries. Often harvested in the 1-kilo weight category, it remains delicate in flavor and texture. (Branzino is also called spigola in Italian and bar or loup de mer in French. In North America, some fish markets in larger cities now import branzino with the whole fish weighing 1-2 pounds. Those filets are ideal for this recipe.)

Veal scallopine is the obvious classic preparation of Saltimbocca alla Romana. Chicken and turkey scallopine are equally impressive. Once the technique is comfortable for you, substitute your favored main ingredient. Like the word "saltimbocca", saltare (to jump) - in - bocca (the mouth), be quick with the sautéing of the fish and deglazing with the wine to make the final sauce. The entire dish can be prepared and cooked within minutes whether it is just for you or for a group of friends.

Serves 4
  • 4-8

    small filets of branzino, striped bass, black bass, sea bass or turbot *


    all-purpose or "0" flour


    salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

  • 4

    very thin slices of prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele, can be halved

  • 4-8

    fresh sage leaves


    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2

    cup fruity Italian white wine


    minced fresh parsley for garnish

Plastic wrap or butcher's paper for pounding fish

1. Rinse each filet under cold running water and pat dry. Insert the filets between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or paper. Lightly pound to make each filet equal thickness throughout when possible. Just before sautéing so the flour doesn't get soggy, season the flour with salt and pepper and lightly coat each filet. Place a piece of prosciutto in the center on top of each filet (cut in half or trim the prosciutto slice to fit if needed), top with a fresh sage leaf, and secure all with a toothpick.

2. In a large sauté pan, pour in a small amount of olive oil. Over high heat, warm the oil until hot and sauté each filet for about 1 minute (prosciutto and sage side up), turn over and finish cooking in about 30 seconds. Immediately turn over again so the prosciutto and sage are on top, and transfer to serving plates kept in a warm oven. Remove the toothpicks.

3. In the same sauté pan over medium heat, deglaze with the white wine reducing it by half and whisking until the sauce is thickened and emulsified by the flour. Quickly spoon some sauce over each saltimbocca, sprinkle with some minced parsley and watch those filets just "jump into your mouth"!

Mary Beth's Chef's Tip: * Depending on the size of the fish filets, purchase 1 or 2 per person. If large, split 1 filet into 2 pieces for each person then pound. Split the prosciutto slices as well. The success of this dish is in serving small, delicate filets. Sometimes sea bass or other fish are so large that the filets will not be the best for this dish because they are simply too thick. Fish that tends to easily fall apart, such as flounder, fluke or sole, are not recommended for this preparation. (Flaky fish - in your sauté pan - will become an understatement!) Choose firm, white-fleshed fish with filets at most 1/2" thick.