Mini Christmas: Saltimbocca, balsamic red onions with white beans followed by Vacherin. And no smoking.

In our house we have an annual event called Mini-Christmas. Because The Boyfriend and I can’t always spend Christmas Day together, we have our own advance mini celebration complete with presents, carols and festive food. Last night I excitedly raced home from my last day at work for a week (in a very non-frugal taxi…oh sod it, it’s Christmas) for our evening of pre-Christmas festivities.

Of course, for me, part of the excitement of this event is the food. This year’s feast was slightly hampered by a broken oven, so I had to pick something to cook which I could make on the stove-top or under the grill. Hmmm. No 3-Bird Roasts for us then.

I liked the idea of doing something poultry-ish and needed something quite light as I splurged on a baby Vacherin from work to have afterwards – more on that later.

So I thought I’d try Saltimbocca which literally translates as “jumps in the mouth” and is a traditionally Italian dish although variations are made all over Europe. It’s very simple – basically an escalope of something (chicken, turkey, pork, veal even – I found some nice free range wiltshire chicken in Waitrose which wasn’t hideously expensive) sprinkled with some sage leaves and then layered with a piece of cured ham to cover the sage leaves and affixed to the escalope with some cocktail sticks. You then simply pan-fry quickly on both sides until cooked through and serve it with some lemony pan-juices which I made by deglazing the pan with a little white wine, the juice of one lemon and a small knob of butter. We had the Saltimbocca with some balsamic red onions and a scoop of mashed white beans.

Simples.

And then afterwards we broke out a wooden box of good Vacherin Mont D’Or which is a really creamy, gooey, rich cheese made from the milk of cows who have spent the summer munching away in alpine meadows!  Sounds delightful frankly. Anyway, they’re at their best just now so give one a try if you can. You can bake Vacherin in the oven to make a sort-of-fondue in its own little box – but we just had it at room temperature scooping it up with bits of baguette, little cornichons and pieces of pear.  It was a million calories a mouthful but a really special treat.

Post present opening and replete with mountain cheese…. for first time in ages I really felt like having a ciggie just to round things off. However, given my addictive and obsessive love of smoking (which, incredibly, I have managed to stave off for two and a half years!) I cannot be trusted to have just one so we finished with a couple of squares of dark chocolate instead.

Pretty good actually – and, even sans Marlborough Light, a merry Mini Christmas was had by all. Or both anyway.

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