One thing I like to do to challenge myself as a cook is to recreate dishes I eat in restaurants. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but I always find the attempt fun. One afternoon, the Eater of the House and myself stopped for a late lunch after a morning of traveling. My meal was mediocre, but the dish he ordered was delicious. What I thought was going to be traditional Chicken Marsala turned out to be pieces of Chicken Marsala in a creamy sauce over pasta. I took only one bite, but I thought it would be easy to recreate for a work night dinner. And I was right! There was only one problem. And let this be a word to the wise to all cooks: make sure you know what is in your cupboard before you start cooking!
I could have sworn I had an old bottle of Marsala wine lingering in the far back of the liquor cabinet. But as I was making the sauce and reaching down beneath, I came up with two different kinds of sherrys and Madeira, but no Marsala! So in an effort to turn lemons into lemonade (by no means a reference to last week’s post!), I pulled out the Madeira, since it is the closest in taste to Marsala and used that instead. I had bought it for making turkey gravy at Thanksgiving, and it has a rich, deep flavor that’s good for cooking. And it worked!
I made the sauce a little thinner than the one in the restaurant and served it over egg noodles topped with a little bit of cheese. For those going the gluten-free route or wanting more vegetables, I thought it would be great over sautéed zucchini or even rice or couscous.
Chicken Marsala (or Madeira) with Pasta
When making the sauce, start with a 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch and whisk; that may be all you need to get it a little thick. If it’s still thin, whisk in another 1/2 teaspoon of the cornstarch. The sauce isn’t thick like an Alfredo sauce, but a little thicker than a wine sauce. You’ll have less than a half cup of sauce; I found a little bit gives a lot of flavor to the chicken and mushrooms.
8 ounces of mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
4 teaspoons olive oil (separated)
1 ½ pounds chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoons shallots
½ cup Marsala or Madeira wine
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon of half and half or cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Cheese for topping
1. In a medium-sized skillet, warm 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until all the water has evaporated and they are brown. Put into a dish and set aside.
2. With the same skillet, warm the other 2 teaspoons of olive oil and when warm, add the chicken and cook until it is done and no longer pink. Remove from heat and add the chicken to the bowl of mushrooms.
3. In the same skillet, melt the butter gently. Add the shallots and cook a few minutes until they are soft. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and add the cornstarch, a 1/2 teaspoon at a time and whisk. When it starts getting a little thick, add the cream. Add the chicken and mushrooms to the pan and stir until everything is covered in sauce.
4. Serve by itself or over a small bed of egg noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with a little bit of cheese.
MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
If you have looked on my website where I extol the genius of all of my favorite food writers, you’ll know that Ruth Reichl is at the top of the list. So when I was given the opportunity to receive an advanced readers copy of her newest book and first work of fiction, Delicious!, I jumped at the chance! (A big thank you to the absolutely fabulous Random House reps, Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, of the podcast Books on the Nightstand and Booktopia fame!)
Delicious! is custom-written for people like me, someone who loves food and loves to read about it. Delicious! is a longtime food magazine in the vein of Gourmet, and we meet our protagonist, Billie Breslin, just as she is hired as the assistant to the editor. When the magazine suddenly seizes publication, Billie is kept on to answer the Delicious! guarantee to readers; if readers have a problem with a recipe, the magazine will return their money for the ingredients. It’s here that Billie enters the magazine’s library, where she comes upon letters written by a girl from Akron named Lulu to James Beard during World War II.
This book has it all: food, food, and more food, a touch of mystery, intrigue, and romance, plus Reichl’s trademark beautiful descriptions of food, clothing, architecture. I know I love a book when it is hard to put down and even harder to do anything else but read! I let a lot of things go in the book; Lulu’s letters didn’t sound like they were written by a 12-year-old, the requisite ugly duckling turning into a swan, and just enjoyed the ride. And I love that there was a nod to Bonnie Slotnick of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, a bookstore in New York City that is only cookbooks. And I have a feeling I’m going to be making a soufflé and a pan of gingerbread very soon! (You also may find me foraging for milkweed in the fall; I really want to know if it tastes like cheese!)