Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mushrooms and wine......so fine.

When people ask me what my favorite vegetable is, asparagus or broccoli usually pops into my head. After all, they often appear as the Lead Side Dish at many fine restaurants and they taste great without much fuss. However, I had to look deep into myself (and my eating habits) and ask, "What vegetable do I consume almost daily?" The answer to that question is mushrooms and onions. It's true- the bright green cheerleader (asparagus) and football player (broccoli) lose out to the slightly dirty and sometimes mangled dirt dwellers better known as the mushroom (clearly the chess club president of the veggie world) and it's good friend, the onion (the janitor, perhaps?). Although they aren't the most handsome veggie, a day without at least one of them isn't complete.

Let's start with the onion. I love green onions, red onions, pearl onions, brown, white, sweet, hot- you get the idea. I eat them raw in salads, stir fried with meat, braised with beef or sprinkled over fish. During some of my poorer times living in Tokyo, I'd eat onion sandwiches. Yup. Thick white bread spread with Kewpie mayonnaise enveloping several thick slices of raw, white onion. Don't knock it till ya try it. I'm sure one bite of that culinary masterpiece now would whip me back to the days where I sat in my Tokyo "apartment" (a 15 x 20 box with a sink) watching Dotchi No Ryori Show while munching on my sandwich. Ah, good times. To me, onions of any preparation are Good Eats.

Mushrooms, on the other hand, need a little nudge of oil, a sprinkling of seasoning or coaxing of garlic to really bring out their full potential. Raw mushrooms, if thinly sliced, are good in salads but otherwise I'm not the biggest fan. Why eat Mr. Mushroom raw when he can pair up with his perfect mate to make the perfect couple?? Wine is Mushroom's soul mate. To me, nothing tastes better than any sort of mushroom sautéed in almost any sort of wine (well, the ones I have cooked with, anyway!). Cooking mushrooms in wine even puts me in a good mood WHILE I am cooking. I can't explain it. Maybe because such little effort is rewarded with such delicious flavor. Maybe the smell of mushrooms in wine drifting through the house acts as some sort of mood enhancer. Whatever it is, whether it's button mushrooms stewed in with burgundy and beef or criminis sautéed with a splash of vermouth, garlic & thyme, I find myself smiling and doing little dances around the stove.

Last night I had to make dinner in a hurry (not because I was going anywhere but because I was about to keel over from hunger) and I knew the perfect dish. Chicken Marsala w/ Mushrooms. So easy, so delicious and contains lots of mushrooms and onion. One of those recipes where you almost always have all of the ingredients on hand. I've made this several times and each time I marvel at how delicious the outcome of so little work can be. Simplicity at it's best. Served with some egg noodles and veggies, it's the perfect weeknight dinner.

As the mushrooms and onions simmered in the Marsala wine, the stress of my workday and looming deadlines just absolutely disappeared. It's in those moments that I find the utter pleasure of cooking and feel overwhelmingly satisfied. It's completely different than the times I've spent hours meticulously creating a four course meal for guests- I love the challenge and the concentration that requires. Sometimes I get carried away, trying to make too many intricate dishes and winding up at dinner time exhausted and irritated with sore feet even though the meal came out great. After those instances I always tell myself that it doesn't require 50 ingredients to impress guests.

Delicious simplicity is something I need to strive for more often and this dish is the perfect example. And of course, it contains my favorite mushrooms and onions so it's perfect!

(I adapted this recipe a bit and increased the liquids so that there would be more reduced sauce).

(Adapted from Gourmet June 1995)

3 whole boneless chicken breasts with skin (about 2 1/2 pounds),
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 container crimini or white button mushrooms, sliced thin
1 cup Marsala
2 cup low salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet heat oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown chicken in 2 batches, transferring with tongs to a large plate as browned.
Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet and sauté onion and mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Marsala and cook mixture, stirring, until Marsala is almost evaporated. Add broth and chicken with any juices that have accumulated on plate and simmer, turning chicken once, until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken with tongs to a platter.

Simmer mushroom sauce until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and salt and pepper to taste, stirring until butter is just incorporated. Spoon mushroom sauce around chicken and sprinkle with parsley.


Anonymous said...

Should this be made with the sweet Marsala?

Anne said...


Yes, sweet marsala is best with this.

Good luck!