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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hesitant Italian

Like most people, I love Italian food. We love it because it's delicious, but also because lots of Italian dishes are very simple. Boiling pasta and warming up store bought sauce is about as easy and inexpensive as it gets. You can do dinner for 4 for under three bucks, which is obviously why it's a college staple. But 'easy and inexpensive' has always made ordering in Italian restaurants a bit of a struggle for me. I'm cheap. As a cheap person I have a problem paying $10-15 for pasta and sauce. Even something like chicken parmigiana is still just pasta and sauce with a piece of breaded chicken. I know, many restaurants make their sauces from scratch with fresh ingredients, but it's still just tomatoes, herbs, garlic, and other really inexpensive things. And I'm pretty sure pasta's just water, flour, and eggs.

So when I go to an Italian restaurant and I see the perfect chicken parm topped with gooey cheese delivered to the next table I think: Nice try. I look for things I rarely eat or never tried to make, and that means I'm ordering the scaloppini or the Chicken Francese or the mussels in garlic sherry, but it mostly means I'm getting the Marsala.

I love Marsala. Chicken, beef, veal, pork. I don't care, just slather it in mushrooms and that sauce. I always figured something so good would surely be outside my
limited abilities. Then I found out I was wrong. If you care how I found out you can read about it here, but I'm moving on.

I’ve made it a handful of times, and most recently was last week. I walked out back to my 2’ x 6’ farm and picked a red and an orange bell pepper. I went back inside, handed them to Tammy, and said: “I’m making Chicken Marsala for dinner. Turn these into a side dish.”  She didn’t miss a beat flawlessly executing roasted pepper orzo. Leave a comment if you'd like the recipe.

Knowing she had her task under control I turned my attention to mine. My recipe for the dish came about from me doing my thing of reading how others made theirs, and then - after getting the gist of the dish - deciding how I would do it.

I pound chicken thin and dust it with flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and whatever else I feel like at the moment.  Then I saute' it on medium high to a golden brown in vegetable oil and butter (we always buy one of the fake 0 trans fat spreads, but get a stick of the real stuff for this). Remove the chicken and set aside.

Then I add sliced mushrooms to the pan and keep stirring until they release their liquids and have browned. Then add a cup of Marsala wine and boil on high until it reduces by half. Add a cup of chicken stock and keep boiling about 3 minutes or until the sauce is almost at the consistency you want.

Now return the chicken to the pan, and toss it in the sauce while you warm it through.  And as long as the butter's already out...

Easy, right?

Delicious, right?