When the “Northern Italian” restaurant boom hit in the 1970s, one key change was that “Veal Parmigiana” went away—and an array of tomato-less veal and chicken cutlet dishes took its place. Veal Marsala became very popular. The Roman Saltimbocca, in which a slice of prosciutto is placed over the veal, had its day. Myriad versions of veal and chicken cutlets with melted cheese and no tomato sauce (usually some kind of wine sauce was served instead) invaded our “ristoranti.” Instead of presenting all the variations (which would take up a book in themselves), I’ve created the perfect 1970s Northern Italian Cutlet Dish—an omnibus of all the themes, that ends up tasting mind-blowingly good. One word of caution: as with any dish that carries prosciutto, there will be some saltiness. If you’re sensitive to that, you might want to reduce slightly the amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano that goes on top of the mozzarella.
Chicken Scallopini with Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Marsala
4 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 2 oz each
1/4 lb. prosciutto, sliced very thin
2 large eggs
flour for dredging
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 lb. mozzarella, sliced thin
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup dry Marsala
1/2 cup unsalty chicken stock
1. Place the chicken filets between pieces of wax paper, and pound them with a mallet, or the back of a cleaver, or the back of a heavy pan. They should flatten out to approximately 1/4″ thick, and each piece should be roughly 5″ by 5″ (it doesn’t matter if they’re a little irregular in shape.)
2. Lay out the slices of prosciutto side by side on a counter, with the length of each slice facing away from you. Place one of the chicken cutlets over 3 or 4 of the slices, laying the cutlet right in the center of those 3 or 4 slices. Using your hands, fold the upper and lower edges of the prosciutto slices in and over the chicken cutlet. The cutlet will be partially covered by prosciutto on the side that faces up; flip it over, and it will be totally covered by prosciutto. Make sure the prosciutto is clinging snugly, and set that cutlet aside. Repeat until all 4 cutlets are wrapped in prosciutto.
3. Break the eggs into a wide, shallow bowl and beat well. Place enough flour to dust the chicken cutlets in a wide, shallow bowl. Dip each cutlet into the egg, coating each one well. Let them drip off excess egg, then dip them very lightly in the flour.
4. Select two medium-size (about 8″), heavy sauté pans, place 3 tablespoons of butter in each one, and place the pans over medium heat. When the butter is foaming, place two cutlets in each pan. Cook the cutlets until they’re golden on the outside, and just done on the inside (about 2 minutes per side.)
5. While the cutlets are cooking, lay 1/4 of the mozzarella slices side by side. Working with your fingers, push them and mold them together until they make a “slice” of mozzarella that will cover the top of a cutlet. Sprinkle it with 1½ tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and push the grated cheese into the mozzarella. You should now have a cheese “slice” that holds together. Repeat until you have four “slices.”
6. When the chicken is done, remove cutlets to a broiler pan. Top each cutlet with a “slice” of cheese, then place under a broiler. The chicken is ready when the cheese has completely melted and browned slightly.
7. While the cheese is melting, make the sauce. Spill out the butter in each of the two pans, and wipe them out lightly with paper towels. Return pans to high heat, and add 1/4 cup of Marsala to each one, as well as 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Boil quickly until only 3-4 tablespoons of liquid is left in each pan. Turn heat to low, and place 2 tablespoons of butter in each pan. Swirl with a whisk until a creamy brown sauce is formed.
8. Divide the cutlets between two dinner plates, and pour the Marsala sauce over and around them. Serve immediately.