WTF should i cook for dinner?

AKA Mig’s Chicken Marsala Madeira

Chances are you have at some point asked yourself, WTF should I cook for dinner. Of course, in these days of social media, you ask that question of your Facebook friends.

At least I did a while ago. Brian suggested Chicken Marsala, which I elected to try because I was in the mood for Indian food. To prepare, I read the wikipedia article.

Turns out it is not an Indian dish. That would be Chicken Tika Masala. Honest mistake.

According to Wikipedia, Marsala is a fortified wine, like port, which is reduced to make the sauce. For me, using largely American or Anglo-Saxon recipes in Austria, cooking has become a process of substitution. I must cook everything from scratch (actually, I also prefer to do that). Nearly every recipe I cook I find myself required to substitute at least one ingredient.

In this case, it was the Marsala, which was not available at my local supermarket. They had an okay shelf of fortified wines, but no Marsala. So I got a bottle of Madeira wine. Got chicken breasts, mushrooms, peppers, shallots, zucchini. Went home and cooked.

Brian has stated before that recipies are often inaccurate, especially cooking times, so I used the wikipedia article instead of a recipe. An ideal recipe would tell you roughly how long it takes to cook something, but it would tell you how to tell when something was finished, rather than tell you exactly how long to cook it.

Brian has become my new cooking mentor, if you haven’t noticed.

I rolled the chicken breasts (with skin, deboned) in flour and sauteed them. I understand sautee to mean fry fairly hot in a fair amount of oil. The skin/coating got nice and crisp. I cut into one breast to make sure it was done (good thing, as it wasn’t done yet). When they were done I removed them and put them in an oven to stay warm, and sauteed sliced shallots, mushrooms and zucchini for a while, then got impatient and added some of the wine and some chicken stock (this concentrate you can get) and cooked until the sauce looked reduced.

Then I served it with the chicken and it was quite popular.

My verdict: working from a wikipedia article instead of a recipe works, at least for a simple dish such as this. I don’t think I added enough wine (more sauce would have been nice) and I should have reduced it a little more. But it tasted great. Chicken was a little dry, otherwise tasty and attractive. I wonder what went wrong there – what causes dry chicken? The zucchini were a mistake (I sliced them into roughly 2″ rectangular slices) – they were soft and mushy before anything else was cooked. Should have added them at the end. Substituting Madeira for Marsala was no problem (maybe Marsala tastes totally awesome and I would change my mind if I tried it, who knows).

The next time I’ll take pictures.

2 responses to “WTF should i cook for dinner?

  1. One great way to keep chicken breasts from drying out is to brine them for about a half an hour just before cooking. Remember to pat them dry once you take them out of the brine, so that they brown well and don’t steam.

    I would not put zucchini in chicken marsala. Serve them on the side if you must have them.

    Given your relative proximity to Italy and the widespread appeal of the dish, I’m a bit surprised you couldn’t find Marsala. The differences between Madeira, port and Marsala are not huge enough to make a difference in this application, although port could be a bit too sweet, I suppose. An alternative would be to use just plain brandy and maybe a little cream to take the edge off.

    The thing about recipes is that they are so rarely tested for accuracy any more. I burned the dickens out of some panko-crusted salmon last night because the time/temp directions were off. That MetaFilter discussion about caramelizing onions is another good example.

  2. mig

    i’m pretty sure the supermarket didn’t have the marsala, i checked both the fortified and normal wine shelves. next time i’ll go to a wine shop. or try brandy. and the zucchini, well, i’m not a huge fan of it, but i thought i needed another vegetable. maybe so, but not zucchini, maybe.