Chicken Marsala (Pollo al Marsala)

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Marsala is an indigenous fortified wine frequently used in Sicilian cooking.  There are two varieties of Marsala – sweet and dry.  Sweet Marsala is savored as a desert wine and used mainly for making desserts.  Dry Marsala, which is less sweet, is enjoyed as an aperitif and used for making savory dishes.

Chicken Marsala is typically made with chicken breasts but it can also be made using the whole chicken or just the thighs and drumsticks.  This is a basic recipe with a variation in  using pancetta and  mushrooms. For those who like the layer of flavors,  the earthiness of the mushrooms and Marsala complement each other.  This dish is delicious served over spaghetti, noodles, or mashed potatoes.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
One 3-4 pound chicken, washed and cut into 8-10 pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced pancetta
8 ounces sliced white or cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup dry Marsala
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

 

Directions:

Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels.

Heat the olive oil and half of the butter in a large, deep-skillet or Dutch oven over high heat.

Working in 2 batches, add half of the chicken pieces and brown on both sides, about 6 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high.  Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic to the skillet.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until onions become soft and translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly, sprinkle in the flour and stir until combined.

Stir in the Marsala, chicken stock, and parsley.  Add in the chicken pieces, cover with a lid, and simmer for approximately 40 minutes, until chicken is tender.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving platter.  Stir remaining butter and lemon juice into the sauce.

To serve, spoon sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle with additional minced parsley if desired.

 

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Marcella Hazan’s Famous Tomato Sauce

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When it comes to essentials, like tomato sauce, originality is overrated. Marcella Hazan’s classic tomato sauce is famous and adored, and justly so. Scads of bloggers and food writers have written about it, so I’m just following along, here in The Quarantined Kitchen Diaries. This is one of the best sauces I know, and you only need four (yes, four) ingredients.

But first of all, I know what you are thinking. Who was Marcella Hazan? Right?

Marcella Hazan (née Polini; April 15, 1924 – September 29, 2013) was an Italian-born cooking writer whose books were published in English. Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She was considered by chefs and fellow food writers to be the doyenne of Italian cuisine.

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Marcella Hazan

 

Born in the town of Cesentaico in Emilia Romagana, she earned her doctoral degree in Natural Sciences and Biology from the University of Ferrara. In 1955 she married Victor Hazan and the couple moved to New York City a few months later. Hazan had never cooked before her marriage; she was an academic who did not have time to cook. As she recounted in the introduction to her 1997 book, Marcella Cucina,

“there I was, having to feed a young, hard-working husband who could deal cheerfully with most life’s ups and downs, but not with an indifferent meal. In Italy, I would not have wasted time thinking about it. My mother cooked, my father cooked, both my grandmothers cooked, even the farm girls who came in to clean could cook. In the kitchen of my New York apartment there was no one.”


She began using her husband’s cookbooks from Italy, but found them disappointing as she realized that her clear memory of the flavors she grew up with in Italy allowed her to reproduce her family’s recipes for herself. “Eventually, I learned that some of the methods I adopted were idiosyncratically my own,” she recalled, “but for most of them I found corroboration in the practices of traditional Italian cooks.”

Hazan began giving cooking lessons in her apartment and later opened her own cooking school in 1969. The cookbooks followed, concentrating strictly on simple Italian cookery, where food is prepared painstakingly by hand rather than machine and without American or British influences. To that end, her recipes called for ingredients typical of the Italian home and were designed to compliment the typical Italian meal that balanced two principal courses, followed by a salad and a dessert.

This classic sauce will show you once and for all that homemade tomato sauce can be so simple to make. You only need four ingredients, including a can of whole plum tomatoes, to be rewarded with a rich, velvety sauce that is blissfully delicious.

The idea behind this tomato sauce is simple: Simmer a can of tomatoes with an onion and five tablespoons of butter. Add a pinch of salt and pull out the onion at the end, and what you are left with is a bright, velvety tomato sauce with a rich roundness from the butter. The butter doesn’t cut the edges of the tomatoes’ tanginess in the way that sugar does; instead it complements the brightness and makes it shine.

This tomato sauce is also entirely hands-off; so you don’t even have mince or chop the onion. It’s a great way to knock a meal together with a few pantry staples. Serve it over pasta with a flurry of cheese, and enjoy tomato sauce with the flair of restaurant richness.

Buon appetito!

 

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SERVES 2 to 4

INGREDIENTS:

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, no salt or herbs added

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small white onion, peeled and cut in half

Kosher salt

For Serving:

1 pound Cooked pasta

Shaved Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Add the tomatoes, butter, onion halves, and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring and crushing the tomatoes lightly with the back of a spoon occasionally, until droplets of fat appear on the surface of the tomatoes, about 45 minutes.

Remove and discard the onion.

Serve over hot pasta with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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COOK’S NOTES:

Adapted in my own words from Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.”

Basically, you can use what you have on hand to make this sauce. I personally like the Cento brand of San Marzan canned tomato because the product does not contain calcium chloride as a preservative . Also, this variety seems the most balanced, while other cooks with taste more of the acidity in this brand. If you find that your sauce in this recipe is a bit too acidic, add a bit of sugar, to taste.

If you do not have any small white onions on hand, feel free to use red onions, yellow onion or vadalia onions. Looking in my pantry, I was short on small to medium onions and made do with the pearl onions I had on hand.

If desired, you can add cracked black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to add a bit of spice to your sauce.

But remember, for each substitution, you will change the flavor profile of the original recipe……and that is okay.

Remember, recipes are designed to be guides that allow for experimentation and improvisation in your kitchen, because every cook, whether they are professionals, advanced home cooks or novices just beginning will find what suits them to the best of their abilities.


Kale Pesto Grilled Cheese

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These ooey, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches use four (count ’em, four) types of cheese: shredded mozzarella, shredded provolone, fresh mozzarella, and Parmesan. They’re sandwiched between toasted brioche with a vibrant basil-kale pesto. Embrace your inner kid and dunk the sandwiches in the warm marinara sauce (that’s exactly what we did).

Adapted from Plated.com
2019

Serves 2

Ingredients:
olive oil
2 ounces curly kale
1/4 ounce basil
1 lemon
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
One 8-ounce jar marinara sauce
4 slices brioche
1 ounce shredded mozzarella
1 ounce shredded provolone cheese blend

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Rinse all produce. Roughly chop or tear kale leaves, discarding long stems. Pick basil leaves, discarding stems. Halve lemon. Thinly slice mozzarella. Mince garlic.

To make kale pesto, add to a blender or food processor, combine pine nuts, kale, basil, half of garlic, 1 tablespoon water, and 2 tablespoons olive oil; pulse until smooth. Stir in half of Parmesan, 1 squeeze lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Set kale pesto aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium high-sided pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add oregano and remaining garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium high and add marinara sauce. Simmer, stirring, until warmed through and flavors have melded, 6-8 minutes more. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Remove pan from heat; cover and set aside until ready to use.

While marinara simmers, drizzle olive oil over 1 side of bread slices. Arrange oil-side up on a baking sheet and bake until beginning to crisp, 2 minutes, then flip. Spread kale pesto over plain sides of bread slices and top with shredded mozzarella and provolone, then remaining Parmesan, then mozzarella slices. Return to oven and bake until cheeses are melted and bread is golden, 3-4 minutes more.

Close sandwiches, pressing to adhere. Return to oven and bake until tops of sandwiches are golden, 1-2 minutes.

To serve, cut kale pesto grilled cheese in half on a diagonal. Divide marinara sauce between small bowls and serve with sandwiches for dipping.