Wednesday, August 26, 2009

UnRecipe: Tough Turkey, Marsala!

Some dishes just aren't meant to be fancy, just quick and easy. That being said, don't be a lazy fool like me and make dumb grocery store choices. For the most part, I think simple meals with a modest list of ingredients can easily become favorites, since they work so well into a weeknight schedule, and chicken or turkey marsala is definitely one that falls into that category, as long as one knows which shortcuts to take and which ones to avoid.

Who you callin' Turkey? - Photo by Wasabi Prime

My usual go-to for finding recipes is, and they have an ample online library of dishes, old and new. If you wish to follow a more traditional chicken marsala recipe, I'd recommend using one of their recipes, like this one with sage. The version I wound up doing was a bit more truncated than what Bon App├ętit had to offer. In general, I recommend doing any dish the traditional way at least once, so you get the full experience of the flavors. And then you can be a harried late-night grocery shopper like me, rushing to grab whatever I could at the last minute.

As mentioned before, this weeknight meal was inspired by the lack of time and planning. I knew the basics for the traditional recipe, but super-simplified things for the sake of getting a meal on the table. I know, I know, food is life, but when you're a part-time food blogger and a full-time cubicle jockey, sometimes something's gotta give so you don't wind up in the drive-thru agreeing to get fries with that. The finished sauce was all marsala wine, no broth, but I enjoy the dry, sweet sherry flavor, so it didn't bother me. I should have run out into the garden to snip some fresh herbs, but it was already dark when I was cooking, so a sprinkle of dry thyme won out -- fresh is absolutely better, so don't succumb to my mistake of late-night cooking.

Something worth noting: my new favorite side dish is broiled broccoli. Inspired by the Broccoli Blasted at Seattle's Belltown neighborhood wine/foodie bar, Black Bottle, I started taking large chunks of broccoli, tossing with olive oil, salt and pepper, and laying them out on a baking sheet right underneath the broiler. It just takes a few minutes to get get the tops crispy, and turn the whole thing a bright, perfectly-cooked green. The broccoli remains crunchy, but with a smoky flavor of the nearly-torched florets. I think drizzled with a bit of pork fat, it would make the dish even better, getting smoky under the heated coil, and then served with the crispy cracklins sprinkled atop the greens, but I'll save that experiment for another day when there's bacon in the fridge.

'Shrooms make everything better, even tough cuts of meat. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Nearly on the outskirts of FoodFail, my only regret was that I used pre-cut slices of turkey breast -- pesky meat department shortcuts! Their thin cutlets belied an unanticipated toughness, and no, I didn't overcook it. Maybe this should have been called Jive Turkey Marsala. So let that be a lesson to shortcut-takers everywhere -- butterfly some chicken breasts and pound the living Valhalla out of it to make a proper whisper-thin paillard, as your efforts will be rewarded in the all-important eating phase of the meal. I usually make this dish with chicken, but I hadn't defrosted any chicken breasts and I totally admit to being sucked into the siren song of pre-sliced turkey breasts on the late-night grocery store run. A mistake I'll not soon repeat. Aside from that one transgression, the meal was still acceptible to hungry tummies, and leftovers were swiftly cleaned up, so the Wasabi household did not turn their noses up in effigy to tough turkey, but I do promise to be more mindful of my timesavers.

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  1. Thanks for the idea for the broccoli, sounds like one I would love. I also like roasted of my faves.

  2. Great broccoli idea! I just blanched a bunch of PURPLE broccoli that I found at the Greenmarket today, but now I know exactly what to do with those florets if I come across them again :)

  3. The broccoli idea sounds great, I'm so gonna try it tomorrow!

  4. ooo -- purple broccoli! Sounds like it makes for a lovely-looking dish. I haven't done the roasted cauliflower yet, but I'm sure it develops a really nice nutty flavor and beautiful color. Cauliflower doesn't always make it to dinner table, as I just start snacking on it raw and before I know it, it's all gone!

  5. Wait, no bacon in your fridge?? WHAT?!!? The END is NEAR!!!

  6. Don't feel too bad...we've all succumb to convenience marketing at some point. It's particularly easy to do when you're tired and hungry. Honestly, I might have been in that drive through, ordering a shake along with those fries. The broccoli does sound great. Have you ever seen Ina Garten's recipe for roasted broccoli? It is delicious and a new weekly standard around here. It's tossed with lemon juice and zest, pine nuts, olive oil, kosher salt, parmesan, and a bit of basil (basically pesto ingredients, but not pureed together). Though I LOVE basil, I like this broc better without it. Give it a try. I will definitely try this broiler version. Thanks for posting!

  7. A bottle of Marsala has a place on any cook's shelf, and it's helped me out of an uninspired midweek hole plenty of times.

    (2) on the purple's normally a sprouting variety that turns a beautiful bright green when steamed. It's easy to grow, at least over here in the UK, and I've got 30 plants in now. Sadly, they don't yield until January or February, but when they do, there'll be a LOT of broccoli.


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