The Inept Cook’s Guide to…Chicken Marsala

So, I’m trying to eat healthier and broaden my cooking horizons (there are about three things I make really well. One of them being spaghetti and one of them a thing with so many calories my belly gets bigger just thinking about it.) I have therefore hatched a plan for the next few weeks: I will try to cook a new (healthy) recipe every Sunday. And I will  document the results here.

Fun, right? 🙂

Ok, so, after reading Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me I, as so many others have probably done, fell in love with the chicken marsala dish. Whenever I see it on a menu I order it. There was a GREAT pasta place in Berkeley (Gypsy’s off Telegraph) that did sort of fast food Italian to go and I ended up going home with their chicken marsala way more often than I should have.

But when I moved back to SoCal I lost my ready and cheap source of chicken marsala. Which means I went scrounging for a recipe to make my own and one that wasn’t a bajillion calories.

Ok, so healthy chicken marsala…

This is where I got the recipe I use from, posted by Jessica on Sunny Side Up in San Diego.

I also cheated a little bit this week because I’ve actually made this recipe before. I’m pretty close to perfecting it, in fact. *preens*

Anyway, here we go!

Chicken Marsala Pasta


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks and seasoned with salt and pepper (I usually save calories wherever I can so I skip the salt and pepper)
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
10-12 ounces mushrooms, cut into chunks (I used baby bella because I love them)
1 small onion, sliced into thin 1-inch pieces (I usually get about halfway through chopping the onion and decide, ‘eh, that looks like enough.’ I suppose it depends on how much you like onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup Marsala cooking wine (I use Colombo Sweet Marsala because that’s all my local store has)
6 ounces of evaporated milk
1 pound pasta of your choice (the original recipe said penne but I tried it that way and thought the pasta was overwhelming all the other flavors so now I use Ronzoni Healthy Harvest twistie kind of noodles.)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese (I use mozarella)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (I skip this step. Who needs garnish when they’re just cooking for themselves?)

I’m a slow chopper so the prep work took me about forty minutes. When I slice onions I am usually a BIG cryer. Like full-on tears streaming down the cheeks, eyes burning. Not fun. So, this time, I got smart and looked up ways to avoid this. I ended up using three different methods:

1. Wear contacts. (This creates a barrier between your eyes and the gas the onion releases as it’s sliced, which is what makes you cry)

2. Stick out your tongue (This is because the moisture on your tongue absorbs the onion gas so less of it travels to your eye)

3. Put a match stick between your teeth–not lit. (I got this tip from The Help. It actually works! I’m not sure why but, hey, I’ll take it.)

As I was slicing onion, the tongue out thing worked for awhile but then my eyes started to burn so I grabbed a matchstick. That worked for the rest of my slicing but it’s difficult to keep between your teeth. Maybe next time I have to slice onion I’ll look up more methods.

“Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, drain and reserve some of the cooking liquid.” (I actually do all the prep work first, chopping and shredding the cheese and all. And I start the pasta cooking at the same time I start browning the chicken.)

“In a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken pieces and brown and cook through. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter and add the onions to the pot, cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 3 minutes, stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. The onions should be starting to get a little color by now.

Slowly pour half of the Marsala wine into the pot and scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the rest of the wine.”

(This is what that step looks like. Pretty, huh?)

“Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly stir in the evaporated milk. Add the cheese stirring constantly.”

(This is what mine looked like)

“Cook the sauce for several minutes until it starts to thicken, then add the pasta and chicken. Stir to coat the pasta. If it needs extra liquid add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta liquid until you get the consistency you’re looking for…”

I never add the extra liquid. I like my sauce kinda thick. When I make this it usually ends up being about 10.5 cups at 274 calories per cup. I eat it in 2 to 1.5 cup servings and then eat pretty damn light for the rest of the day.

(Ready to eat!)

The sauce is rich and the mushrooms are frankly delicious. It’s very good reheated over the next few days although the chicken always dries out a bit.

Overall I give this recipe ****/*****

To quote Julia Child:

Bon Appetit,

Beth Matthews

p.s. I forgot to mention my lovely assistant this week…

Although all he really did was sit there and look pretty while trying to scam food from me. Still, every chef needs an assistant right?

April 25, 2012

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