I was up until 2am last night finishing my dog clothes catalog for my spring 2010 release. What a relief to have that over and done with! Now I have a lot of work regarding email marketing and such, but for now… time to cook!
My friend Maria is in surgery today. She comes out this afternoon so I am going to take her family dinner. She is ok, it was a problem with her shoulder, so she won't be able to move much and I think during these times people need to help out. I am not good at many things, but I CAN cook... so I am going to double up our meal tonight and take half of it to her.
So before I cook a gosh darn thing, I am pouring a glass of wine to sip during the process. I am going for one of my favorites: a Petite Syrah. Listen, after the week I have had I deserve to sip some wine while I cook. Fair enough?
One thing I thought I would add is "Tips and tricks" Today's tip is to always sous as much as you can ahead of time. I have these little handy rubber dishes I put my stuff in. If no one is here to help me prep. I chop up everything I can ahead of time. Then it is sitting there waiting for me when the recipe calls for it. If you don't prep, you will find yourself overwhelmed really fast. Randy used to sous for me, when Penny is here she does it, and when Devon comes over she does too. Randy has pretty much stopped, probably because I am bitchy. Oh well. haha. Here is my sous solution:
Pollo al Marsala is as my wine lover book says “as traditionally Italian as it gets". I was going to make her lasagna, but my lasagna has Italian sausage in it which contains pork. They are Jewish and don't eat pork. So hence the chicken. You can serve Chicken Marsala with pasta, but I have chosen to serve it with the mushroom risotto.
To make the Marsala you need:
2/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (they are Jewish)
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 TB dried oregano
1 tsp fennel seed toasted and ground (to toast seeds spread on a baking sheet in a preheated oven for 7 minutes)
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, rinsed and dried (please always remember to dry your meat otherwise it won't brown)
2 1/2 TB olive oil
4 ounces pancetta - I had to leave this out... Pork!
8 ounces cremini or shitake mushrooms ( I used shitake and you must stem shitake mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic
1 large shallot
1 2/3 marsala wine ( look, who in the heck has marsala wine? Gross! It is nasty. So I have found in recipes
Mix these two ingredients together and you have a great substitute for Marsala. •1/4 cup of dry white wine (chardonnay)& •1 teaspoon of brandy )
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1 TB tomato paste
1 1/2 balsamic vinegar
4 TB unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
in a small bowl combine flour, salt, pepper, oregano, cooked fennel and stir. Coat this mixture on both sides of the DRIED chicken breasts and set aside on waxed paper.
In a large skillet, heat 2 TB olive oil until surface shimmers (375 degrees) brown chicken in oil on both sides (usually 5 min 1st side, 4 min second side). Transfer to a plate and keep warm until ready to serve.
If using the pancetta (which I did for ours, but not for theirs) put pancetta in pan until crisp (5 min) and transfer to paper towels to drain.
Add remaining 1/2 TB olive oil to pan. Slice, then Sauté mushrooms until they brown. My favorite Julia quote: "Don't crowd the mushrooms" You really need to do the mushrooms in 2 batches because if you crowd them, they won't brown properly. Add minced garlic and minced shallot. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add "marsala" and stir to scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add stock, tomato paste and pancetta (or leave out pancetta if going for kosher). Simmer to reduce the sauce until thickened. Add balsamic and juices accumulated on the plate from the cooked chicken. Remove from heat and whisk in butter 1 TB at a time. Season with salt and pepper (if you didn't use pancetta it will need salt). Serve on a plate and cover with sauce. I served over risotto and covered with the sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.
Unexpected visitors while cooking... the cucumber chocolate chip peanut butter thing Frenchie always makes:
I am also making the Insalata di cetrioli which is the best throw together salad you can ever make if you like tomatoes and cucumbers. I have made it before, but here is the recipe:
I use about 10 fresh basil leaves. Wash, then mince. don't bother with dried. Yuck. It won't even taste the same at all. I pull mine from my garden or just buy the leaves from the grocery. Rinse, dry then chop. Chopping can be tricky cuz they like to stick together. I roll the leaves and then slice like so:
I mince/crush 3 cloves of garlic, add basil, cover with 1 TB olive oil and 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and put in the fridge for at least an hour. The vinegar and oil do a civeche style of naturally cooking the raw garlic. Right before serving peel, core and cube up cucumbers, core and cube tomatoes. Add to bowl and salt and pepper to taste. Serve. It is that easy and it is really really really good.
I am not going to bother posting up the risotto recipe. Anyone who has an ounce of patience and google can make risotto.
Then I got to thinkin... they need some sort of dessert! So I made Creme Freche and Chocolate dipped strawberries. My friend Penny recently went to Mexico and brought me back some killer vanilla.