For the last couple of years, I’ve been heavily focused on my catering company, J2Food. While the current public health crisis is going on, there are less parties and events happening, but people have still got to eat, right?!? And since we’re all stuck inside, why don’t we cook together? Enter in our new cooking series — “Cooking Under Quarantine.” Each episode will feature delicious and easy-to-make recipes that you can make at home with accessible ingredients. Perfect for chefs of all levels!
For our first episode, we’re cooking up a classic chicken dish to celebrate Shabbat (Friday night). This delicious Chicken Marsala is an easy, one pot dish that comes together in under an hour! So, it’s also great for a weeknight dinner that you want to make a little more special. This recipe is also great for veal cutlets or even tofu or a meaty fish to make it vegetarian.
So I’ve recently started offering small group cooking classes through my catering company,J2Food, and the theme for the first session was all about love. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day, and it was a couples-themed class, It’s a Date! And what can be more romantic than cooking for your loved one? Or, even better, cooking together. So as I was considering what we should make for the meal, I thought we should have all foods that not only taste delicious but also look amazing and can be made by any amateur chef (and easy to clean to boot!).
Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite dishes to make for guests and even crowds. It sounds and tastes very complex, but is actually very simple to make and very impressive in its presentation and flavors. It’s a recipe that I teach all of my cousins when they go to college so that they have at least one quality trick up their sleeve to throw down. This dish is also great for a quick weeknight meal. Serve it over some herbed egg noodles, with creamy garlic mashed potatoes or even with a fresh arugula salad. Enjoy and let me know how yours turns out!
Chicken breasts, boneless – while I often opt for the more forgiving chicken thighs, it’s very traditional to use chicken breast in this recipe for texture and size
Mushrooms, halved – I like Cremini (mini portobellos), but button mushrooms or any variety are good to use. Sometimes I like to use a mix of mushrooms…you can never have too many
Bottle of Marsala wine – I would definitely use real Marsala wine (usually found in the dessert wine section near the Madeira or sherry). Resist the urge to use Marsala cooking wine found in the grocery store since those are loaded with salt and MSG.
Salt and pepper
Dried herbs – whatever your favorite flavors are (we used rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
Fresh parsley, chopped
Garlic, 8-10 cloves chopped
Pound the chicken breasts out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Doesn’t need to be super thin since these are getting twice-cooked
Add enough olive oil to a heavy-bottomed sauté pan to coat and start to heat on medium
Mix a heavy pinch of dried herbs, salt and pepper into about 1.5 cups of flour — you may need more later on, so don’t be skimpy now
Dip the chicken pieces into the seasoned flour mixture one by one to coat then add to the hot pan — How hot should the pan be? You should hear a small sizzle or see some small bubbles form around the edge of the chicken
Cook the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes per side so they both get a slight crisp and are golden to golden brown on each side
Reserve partially cooked chicken for later to finish cooking
In the same pan, add a heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic
After the garlic has started to brown, add the mushrooms — it’s important that mushrooms have room to cook or they’ll steam instead of sautéing so don’t overcrowd the pan
One the mushrooms have cooked, add a few spoonfuls of the flour mixture to the pan and stir to coat the mushrooms and so that all of the flour gets to cook off some
After a couple of minutes, deglaze the pan with about half the bottle of Marsala — the pan should start to sizzle rapidly and this is the time for you to use your spatula/spoon to scrape up the good, crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. This is pure flavor…Yum!!!
Add about 1 cup of chicken stock to the pan, and also season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce mixture come up to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for a couple of minutes to get rid some of the sharpness from the wine and stock
At this point, the floury mushrooms acted as our roux, and the sauce should be starting to thicken. Add the chicken back into the sauce and submerge.
Cover the pan with a lid of tight aluminum foil and cook for another 20 minutes on simmer or medium-low heat. The chicken will get nice and tender and the sauce will thicken some more
Once done, serve on a big platter with some risotto, egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley
The other day, someone who I had met at a food festival asked me for the recipe for this Moroccan Chicken. They had eaten it at an event I had catered in Philadelphia a couple of months ago though my catering company, J2Food, and loved it. I don’t always give out some of my more secret recipes, but since she was so nice, I decided to write it up and post it here for all of you 🙂 This Moroccan Chicken dish isn’t actually cooked inside of a “tagine” pot, but it echoes a lot of the flavors that I love when I ordering tagines at Moroccan restaurants — a little bit sweet, salty, sour, savory and the protein is always fall apart tender. It’s very comforting in this winter weather, and is also great to make in the slow cooker! Let me know how yours turns out.
I’ve been thinking about how to put a twist on some classic dishes lately. One of my favorites is Chicken Parmigiana. Who can resist the call of crispy chicken, hearty tomato sauce, and gooey cheese? Not this guy. But there are only so many ways to reinvent the wheel when it comes to a good chicken parm. So, I thought, “what about chicken parmigiana as a meatball?” and the idea for this dish was born. These meatballs have all the aspects of a plate of chicken parm that you love, without all of the work, and in a new, unique way.
1-2 lbs of ground chicken—I like white meat, but if you’re afraid of your meatballs drying out, then dark meat is delicious. Same thing with ground turkey
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of minced onion, dried
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/4 cup of wheat germ—breadcrumb lam work well too, but I think the wheat germ in the actual meatball gives it a little bit of sweetness that you often find in slow cooked chicken parmigiana dishes
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup and 1-2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (use a sliding scale depending on your preference)
In a bowl, mix ½ cup of Parmesan cheese with the Panko breadcrumbs, and set aside
Cut a few slices of the mozzarella, about ½ of the ball, and cube all but 2 of them
In another bowl, combine ground chicken, wheat germ, egg, salt, pepper, basil, garlic and onion together in a bowl
Mix the meat mixture, but not too much, just until it becomes homogenous
Grab about 1/8 of the meat mixture and form into a small patty
Use your thumb to make a small well in the center of the patty and place a couple of cubes of cheese there
Use your fingers to curl the meat around the cheese into a ball and your other hand to seal the edges. All do the cheese should be covered by meat so it doesn’t leak out
Roll the meatball in the Parmesan breadcrumb mixture until coated all over
Place the coated meatballs on a greased baking sheet, evenly spaced apart
Put the meatball sheet into the refrigerator for about 30-60 minutes, or 15-20 minutes in the freezer to firm up
Add a bit of olive oil to the top of each meatball before baking
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes
Once they’re starting to brown, flip the meatballs and bake for another 15 minutes
Remove the meatballs from the oven and turn the heat up to 425 degrees
In a small baking dish, or a large one, if you’d like to do them all at once, place your meatballs
Cover with 1-2 cups of the tomato sauce and the remaining cheese
Bake the meatballs again in the oven for 6-8 minutes. You just want to get the meatballs to absorb some of the sauce, and the cheese to melt nicely
Serve and enjoy! I like mine with a nice Caesar salad on the side, but these would be great with some pasta tossed in the same tomato sauce, on a sub, as a topping for pizza, or even as an appetizer. You’ll love this twist on your normal meatball recipe. Go balls to the wall! 😉
This recipe was inspired by the delicious Chicken Rendang dish I had at Malaysia Grill recently. One of the cooking methods that made that dish so unique was the use of ground onions in the gravy. The onions gave an amazingly aromatic and deep flavor to the dish. In my spin on a chicken curry, shallots are roasted and pureed into a paste in order to impart a similar flavor profile. This curry also incorporates flavors from Thai and Indian cuisines. I chose to make it with chicken, but it would be delicious with beef, shrimp or even vegetarian. Some crispy tofu or eggplant would be nice options. It might seem like a lot of steps, but once you’ve prepped, it really cooks quickly. You’ll love to eat this curry on a chilly day, or on any day of the year.
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken tenders, chopped into medium sized chunks
3 stalks of lemongrass
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 heaping spoonfuls of hot chili oil
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of dried shrimp – this might seem like a weird ingredient, but it’s very prevalent in Asian dishes. It also gives a great umami flavor
3 small or 2 large limes
2 tablespoons of palm sugar (if you don’t have any palm sugar, then brown sugar or even white sugar is fine as a substitute)
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of peanut oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 medium shallots
2 medium (or 1 extra large) russet potatoes (you want a good starchy potato to help thicken the curry and stand up to the cooking process)
2 teaspoons of Garam Masala
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 cup of water
1.5 teaspoons of freeze-dried cilantro
1/2 of a 4oz jar of green curry paste (Thai kitchen is a good brand)
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 Thai green chilies, minced (jalapeños are a good substitute) — this is an optional ingredient, but really helps being a nice beat to the dish
To make the marinade:
Chop the lemongrass into 1-2 inch long pieces and place into a plastic Ziploc bag (about gallon size)–Make sure the lemongrass isn’t cut too small since you’ll have to take it out before cooking.
Add the rice wine vinegar, hot chili oil, the juice of 1 large or 2 small limes, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1 shallot roughly chopped, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and the dried shrimp.
Place the chicken, cut into chunks, along with the rest of the marinade ingredients into a Ziploc bag with a strong zipper. Trust me, you’ll need the good kind, unless you want marinade all over your counter or the inside of your refrigerator.
Toss the cut lime into the bag as well since the zest will help flavor the chicken. You can also add some fresh ginger to this marinade if you want to turn this into a chicken stir-fry style dish. After marinating the chicken, sauté it with some broccoli or peppers or snow peas in a hot wok and serve over rice. Yum!
Marinade for 30 minutes minimum, and up to 1 day in the fridge.
To Make the Roasted Potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Chop the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut those pieces lengthwise again. Cut the long quarters into medium-large chunks. Don’t worry if all of the pieces aren’t the same size, your dish will look rustic and let people know that it’s homemade.
Place the potatoes onto a baking sheet.
Add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried cilantro. If you don’t have dried cilantro, then cumin would be tasty and would give the potatoes a smoky taste.
Toss to coat all of the potatoes with the oil and spices.
Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You want them be crisp and light brown on the outside, but be careful to not let them get too dark. These don’t require a lot of babysitting.
To Make the Shallot Paste:
Peel the shallots (there will be 2 bulbs in each skin).
If the shallot is large then cut the bulbs in half, if not then place it whole onto a baking sheet.
Season the shallots with salt, pepper and remaining olive oil
Put the shallots into the oven about 10 minutes after the potatoes.
Once you’ve taken the shallots out of the oven, allow them to cool a bit.
Put the shallots into a blender with the curry powder, garam masala, ground ginger, and remaining teaspoon of oil.
Pulse while adding water until it comes together into a loose paste.
The potatoes and shallot paste could both be made ahead of time, just make sure to refrigerate.
To Make the Curry:
Add remaining peanut oil to a wok
Heat your wok on medium to medium high heat until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking
Add curry paste to the wok along with the zest of 1/2 a lime and minced Thai chilies, and heat through (1-2 minutes)
Add the shallot paste to the wok. You’ll be able to smell the aromas of Garam Masala and curry powder after cooking for a few minutes.
Add the coconut milk to the wok as well as the remaining sugar.
Let the sauce come up to a simmer and taste. You can add more fish sauce to taste.
Once the sauce is simmering steadily, it’s time to add the chicken. Remember to pick the lemongrass and limes out of the marinade bag. The lemongrass is inedible in this form and has done its job in flavoring the dish. Also, drain most all of the marinade out of the bag.
Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes, then add the roasted potatoes.
Now is the fun part. Stir the wok around and let it go on the stove for at least 10-15 minutes on medium low – medium in order to give the chicken time to cook in the sauce and the potatoes do lost their crispy exterior and absorb some sauce. Use this time to get a drink, or wash the chili off of your hands.
After it starts simmering again, squeeze half of a lime into the wok and keep simmering. Save the remaining lime half.
When the curry has reduced and has thickened up, so that sticks heavily to your spoon, then it’s done.
Garnish with a wedge of lime and serve! A dollop of Greek yogurt or raita would be delicious to help cool down the palate as well.
There’s a deep Indian-spiced, curry flavor to the dish, with an escalating heat from the Thai chilies—no bite though, rather it’s a kind of heat that rests on the back of your tongue. You also taste the warming flavors of curry, garam masala and ginger, as well as an earthiness from the roasted shallots.
The chicken almost braises in the curry sauce, and doesn’t get chewy while cooking in the sauce. The potatoes also have a great mouth feel; they absorb some of the sauce, and the starchiness of the potatoes helps thicken up the gravy. The lemongrass complements the lime throughout the dish, and gives it a subtle citrus flavor, which helps cut across the heaviness of the dish itself. The dried shrimp rehydrates in the marinade as well as the curry, and much of it melts. The leftover pieces become chewy and add a nice fishiness to round out the flavor profile. Rice or naan is a great vehicle to scoop up the thick curry sauce, although the dish is filling enough to eat on its own. It’s so good you may lick your plate clean!