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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Marsala With A Twist

Yesterday was day two without my car.  It's not as if I follow the  European mode of market shopping every day.  I guess I never realized how much I relied on transportation to pick up the little things for cooking. I always seem to need something.

The last couple of days have shown me that even when I think my pantry is fully stocked, it isn't.  After walking home for the umpteenth time passing nothing but gas stations and tobacco stores, I had to rely on my pantry again for dinner last night.  Meal planning has begun to feel like Top Chef challenges, without the 30 minute time clock. Who needs their clock?  I have my own mental cooking time clock constantly ticking away

I ransacked the vegetable bin looking for anything.  I had a few unused crimini mushrooms left over from a previous stroganoff.  I had organic chicken, tomatoes, stock, lemons, baby new potatoes, and  herbs from our urban garden. 
Marsala or Piccata?  Both, maybe?
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I sliced a lemon into paper thin stained-glass looking  pieces, brushed them with olive oil, lightly salted them, and roasted them in the oven at 350 until the edges slightly browned and the pulp was highly concentrated.

I seasoned, floured, and  panfried boneless chicken breasts until crispy and golden.  After tenting them to keep warm and rest, I tossed quartered crimini mushrooms and sliced onions into the skillet to cook down and caramelize before deglazing the pan with marsala wine and chicken stock to pick up the flavor fond from the chicken.  Once the marsala sauce reduced by half, I threw in fresh thyme, parsley, and the reserved oven dried lemon wheels.
While the sauce simmered and thickened, I boiled baby new potatoes until tender.  When they were fork tender, I drained them and returned them to the pot to crisp up in simmering melted butter, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.

I topped the chicken with the intense lemon marsala sauce, dropped the parslied potatoes onto the plate, and sliced  gorgeous heirloom tomatoes as a summer side.

The marsala sauce was deeply flavored, sweet from the wine/stock reduction and immensely tart from the concentrated oven dried lemons. It reminded me of sweet and sour....on steroids, like an extreme Italian sweet and sour stir fry. Big, robust, and tart, with tender crispy chicken grounding it. The buttered parslied potatoes were palate calmers.  Familiar and friendly.  Safe.

Of course, the ubiquitous tomatoes, fresh and warm from the sun, sealed the deal. Garden candy.

My car is finally up and running and I am no longer chained to my pantry.
Relying on the pantry wasn't a bad thing. At all. 

A little imagination goes a long way.

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