Posted by: zhak39 | November 15, 2008

Chicken Mar-sorta

Secret number 39 to well received meals.

I love cooking for appreciative people, you know, the ones that the fact that they didn’t have to cook it means it automatically tastes great.  Sometimes though, there are more critical palates that need to be pleased.  These are the ones that  say,  ‘meh,  the chef at  The Four Seasons  does this dish better.’   There’s a well-duh moment.

So here’s the secret.  You’re making a pretty well known traditional dish.  Everyone knows what it’s supposed to taste like.  When that one person comes into the kitchen to oversee the process you say, ‘I was going to make something or other but saw that there was fresh something or other on hand so I changed the recipe.  It won’t taste like you expect.’ If you’re really bold you say ‘hope you like it better.’

Last weekend there was a family gathering at my parents house.  I was going to make Chicken Marsala but made a point of letting someone know it was Chicken Mar-sorta instead.

We had 6 meat eaters, two teenage boys, four seniors.  Mom had four largish chicken breasts.  With a nice salad (Chris calls it the ‘leaf course’) and  risotto I thought that would be sufficient.

I use a marble pounder to thin meat.  This makes it more tender then slicing lengthwise.  Here’s a variation  Once the meat is evenly thinned and cut into similar size pieces, squeeze fresh lemon juice over.  Then finely grate the rind directly on them.  While those sit, heat butter and olive oil in a pan.  This is another variation.  Saute very finely diced garlic and shallots (note: I love cooking at moms.  Shallots, fresh parsley in pots year round, what elegance!).  Pat the chicken dry using absorbent towels.  Leave specks of the lemon zest.  Dip the meat in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  Pop them in the hot oil/butter and cook almost through.  As the pieces are done, put them in a heated casserole in a warm (not hot-you want them to finish cooking but not dry out) oven.

There will be a crusty residue on the bottom of the pan.  Mix 1/2 cup of Marsala with a spoonful of tomato paste.  Use this to deglaze the pan (pour in hot pan and scrape the bottom until all that crusty stuff comes up).  Keep stirring so it’s smooth.  The flour from the chicken pieces and the paste will thicken the sauce.  Some people pour the sauce over the meat.  I prefer to dip the meat into the sauce.  The flour coating makes the meat absorbent.  It sponges up the flavor and improves the texture.  If there is any sauce left over, pour it over.  Layer the meat in half the casserole and return the dish to the warm oven.

Mom had these great baby fist sized mushroom.  I melted more butter in the hot pan and sauted sliced mushrooms.  When they were done I put them in the casserole next to the meat.  Then I splashed more marsala in the pan to deglaze again and poured that sauce over the mushroom.  Fresh chopped parsley adds a great flavor and nice color.

That day Helen was sous chef.  She stirred the risotto adding broth as the aborio rice absorbed a bit at a time.  Mom made the salad.  Start to finish, dinner was done in under an hour.

There were no complaints.  Aunt Carol particularly liked the mushrooms.  I told her secret number 28.  Everything tastes great cooked in a 1/2 pound of butter.


  1. Your chicken Mar-Sorta was so delicious I made it again last week.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! I love cooking for you.

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