Hold the Cheese

My first experience with wine was disastrous. Shortly after I turned 21, a friend and I went to the store and tried to find one to try. The only name that looked familiar was Merlot.
We brought it to my house, popped it open with my brand new corkscrew, and poured it into some stemware.
I don’t know if it was our ignorant taste buds or a bad wine or what. It was sooooo bad. And then we got the idea of putting some sugar in it, to cut the bitterness.
I do not recommend doing this.

Fast forward some years. Wine is super trendy right now, and i usually resist trends. Jonathan was indifferent.
But a few weekends ago, we heard about a Wine and Food Festival nearby and decided to go.
We live in an area that produces a lot of wine. I can name 3 vineyards within a few miles of here. The festival was from all over the state, but focusing on locals.
We did some tasting. To both of our surprise, we liked it! I tended toward sweet reds, but not too sweet. Jonathan was digging the whites, sweet but tending a little toward semisweet (aka he liked them tart).
We bought 3 bottles that day. We also visited a local wine shop (the best one) to see if they carried the labels we liked (we had kept notes at the festival). They did. We will be spending some time in there. 😉

So now I guess we are wine snobs? We have an unspoken agreement that we only want locally produced wine, which is not a limitation here haha.


Rosh Hashanah

I’m not Jewish. Never have been and presumably never will be.  So why, you may ask, am I writing about one of the High Holy days?

Well, it has to do with my deep love for autumn. In the early days of autumn, as the air cools, the apple harvest comes in, and the leaves begin to turn, I feel like I come alive. I can’t explain it. I feel like this lovely time of year is much nicer and way more logical for a New Year than the middle of dreary winter (ahem, Gregorian calendar).
I can’t even attempt to claim to “observe” the holiday. I mostly just hijack it as a great excuse to make delicious bread and eat apples. I began this “tradition” last year in fact. I was (and am) a fervent reader of the blog Shiksa in the Kitchen, and her posts about holiday food enticed and inspired me. It’s just a coincidence that it fit so well with my own feelings about the season.

I’m celebrating today by making and consuming a delicious Challah bread, eating apples with honey, and drinking kosher wine. I won’t tell you the rest of my meal because it’s positively blasphemous. 😉


Chicken Marsala

We don’t often go to Olive Garden (and an Actual Italian Restaurant is directly out). It’s a bit pricey for our budget (we are sooooo cheap), and it’s not very preschooler-friendly. But every time we do go, I get the Stuffed Chicken Marsala. It’s gloriously delicious. I’d always kindof assumed that it was a difficult recipe, so I’d never tried it. But if there’s one thing that food blogging has taught me, it’s that the fancy recipes that we think are difficult are actually easier than takeout.

Chicken Marsala has a very small ingredient list, and many of them are things you already have. If I want to make this, I do need to plan ahead because I don’t generally keep mushrooms or Marsala wine in the house, but they’re both easy to obtain. I based this on the recipe in my BHG cookbook (they don’t seem to have it online) – the main difference is that I stuffed the chicken with cheese and herbs and they don’t.

Here is my ingredient list:
– chicken breasts (I used 2 big ones – in the future I’ll use smaller ones)
– 1/4 cup flour
– 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (or substitute as you like)
– 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper
– 2 cups of sliced mushrooms
– 1/4 cup sliced green onions
– shredded Italian cheese (a single kind like parmesan or a mix, as you prefer)
– 3 tbsp butter
– 1/2 cup chicken broth
– 1/2 cup Marsala wine

For equipment you will need:
– small bowl
– something to pound chicken with
– cutting board
– plastic wrap
– skillet (cast iron is, of course, recommended)

Watch carefully; this recipe is so short that you might miss it.

Step one: Mix the flour, seasoning, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.

Step two: Lay the chicken on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and pound it until it’s around 1/4 inch thick.

Step three: Careful now! Use a sharp knife to cut a “pocket” in each piece of chicken. Stuff this pocket with cheese and any herbs you may want (I used marjoram, to match the breading).

Step four: Dip the chicken in the flour mixture (step one) and shake off excess – they only need a light coat. Set aside.

Step five: Melt one tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Saute the mushrooms and green onions in it, over medium-high heat, until they’re softened. Remove from skillet. (I just put them back into the measuring cup.)

Step six: Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and allow to melt. Add the chicken breasts (don’t crowd the pan) and allow them to brown on each side. This’ll take about 6 minutes or so.

Step seven: TURN OFF the heat. Move the skillet to a different burner. Add the mushrooms and green onions back to the pan. Make sure there are no flames about, and add the Marsala wine to the pan, followed by the chicken broth. (I actually mixed the two together in a measuring cup.)

Step eight: When the liquids have calmed down a bit, put the skillet back on the heat and bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. The liquids will thicken into a lovely sauce.

Serve! It’s really good with pasta, but I suspect it’d also go well with rice! You can put it on a plate and stage it all pretty if you want, or you can just devour it, your choice.

I was absolutely amazed at how SIMPLE this recipe really is. It took less than 30 minutes, only a few ingredients, and the hardest part was pounding it out! (Bonus for doing it on a busy weeknight: take your frustrations out on the chicken.) Seriously: this is how difficult it was to make:

That’s right: wearing a Legend of Zelda hoodie, one hand in the pocket. You can practically do it in your sleep. (That’s also how glamorous it is to be a nobody food blogger.) This is only marginally more difficult (if at all) than any of the typical “weeknight” recipes you’ve got in rotation, and definitely adds a touch of class to your Wednesday night.

Do you have any restaurant recipes that you love, but are afraid to try at home?  (Make a suggestion and maybe I’ll try it for you!) Have you ever tried a “fancy” recipe and been surprised by how easy it was?