Traveling the world through cuisine

Amo Marsala!

Church of the Purgatory, Marsala, Sicily

For many years we’ve known Sicily mainly through mobster movies like the Godfather series, and while some of those stories strike similarity to reality in the region, there is so much more to Sicily than the mafia.  This quaint island off the tip of the Italian peninsula is an interesting meld of Italian, Greek, Arabic, and even Norse influences.

Sicilian cuisine has been stereotyped as the “model” of what we see as Italian cuisine in America.  Granted many of the typical dishes you see in the American Italian restaurants are based on the Southern Italian and Sicilian influence, there’s way more to the cuisine than just red sauces and heaps of pasta.

To give you a start, I will take you into one of the more commonly known Sicilian dishes that you’ll find all over – Veal Marsala.  Marsala is actually a small port town located at the northwest corner of Sicily, and while the town itself isn’t any kind of massively known locale, their wine is.

Marsala wine is what as known as a fortified wine.  That means another distilled liquid has been added to the wine itself.  Back in the late 1700s, the Marsala natives simply did this to keep the wine preserved for long journeys to foreign countries for trade, but the idea of fortification is also about adding flavor to the wine itself.  Fortified wines such as sherry and port have been known throughout the culinary community forever.

The wine itself comes both sweet and dry, and can cost a few dollars a bottle to up to hundreds for a high-quality vintage.  While you can enjoy a glass of Marsala wine with many meals, its usage as a cooking wine has been the more popular ideology.  My father would make chicken and veal Marsala many times, but even try the wine in other creations simply to add a sweeter, tangier flavor.  You can find the wine at many grocery stores and liquor stores.  I picked up a bottle at Trader Joe’s even.

For this recipe, you’ll need the sweet Marsala wine, and I wouldn’t spend loads of cash on a fine bottle.  Save those for drinking.  You can do this recipe with chicken, but I wanted to break up the chicken monotony in my cooking and go for veal.  I’d suggest saving yourself some money and see if your grocer or butcher carries “cubed veal cutlets”.  They look like the meat was pounded down with a tenderizer, which is actually a step.  So you can buy fresh cutlets and spend more, only to pound them down, or save a step and a few dollars.

Let’s get cooking…

Veal Marsala

Veal Marsala

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of veal
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of pepper
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 pound of fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup of sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of beef broth

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200º.
  2. If you purchased regular veal cutlets, then pound them down with a meat tenderizer. If you purchased the cubed cutlets as advised, skip this step.
  3. Coat the cutlet with flour, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the cutlets until they are just about done.
  5. Move the cutlets to a baking dish and place in the oven to keep warm.
  6. In a medium saucepan, heat up the last 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Place the minced shallot and sliced mushrooms into the oil when hot.
  7. Cook the shallot and mushrooms until tender, then raise the heat on the stove to medium high.
  8. Add in the Marsala wine and garlic. Cook until the mixture thickens.
  9. Stir in the chicken and beef broth, continue to heat until the mixture thickens into a gravy-like sauce. Stir occasionally.
  10. Remove the warm cutlets from the oven and serve with some of the sauce and mushrooms on top.

Quick Notes

Be patient when thickening the wine and then later the sauce. It doesn’t take too much time, but it doesn’t happen very quickly either.

The pasta shown in the photo was added only as a decoration for the plate. It’s just spaghetti tossed with olive oil, garlic, oregano, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Variations

If veal isn’t to your liking, then try chicken. Get some boneless skinless chicken breasts, tenderize, and do the same thing as shown with the veal.

If you cannot get shallots, then use a medium-size Spanish onion.

Healthy It Up

Healthy deviations you can do (and I have done) would be to use low-sodium chicken-broth, and even coat the cutlets with whole wheat flour.

Tags: chicken, Italian, Marsala, Sicily, veal

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