Early morning view from the Wine Country Inn at Saint Helena, Napa Valley
Thank you for your patience I as wrap up the summer. This is always an extremely busy time of year at The V.I.P. Table. Regular updates will continue very soon. So until September, enjoy your final days of summer and make sure to eat and drink well.
Sometimes things are much easier than they seem. Take Mushroom Marsala sauce, for example. When thinking of the many Marsala sauces I’ve had in my life, I’m dumbfounded by how many of them were lackluster, watery and improperly seasoned. It’s almost as if the heights, which this preparation can reach, have been forgotten by the majority of culinary professionals. To the uninitiated, a preparation like this may seem like an intimidating and drawn out process, but the reality is that a Marsala sauce is a simple preparation, which results in one of the most complex and delicious sauces imaginable.
A Mushroom Marsala sauce carries a weight in the mouth that would lead you to believe it had been cooking for hours. It’s rich and velvety while flaunting its spicy herbal flavors. The mushrooms take on the sweet woody notes of the Marsala wine, along with a hint of the butter they’re cooked in, to create a layering of intense flavors on a smooth meaty canvas. Don’t be surprised when your guests clean their plates of every last drop.
The first thing you must understand is the culinary principle of only adding a wine to your food that you wouldn’t mind drinking on its own. Marsala is wine, after all, even though it's fortified and the sauce takes a healthy does that truly affects the end result.
Make sure to have your hardware ready when you begin. I like to use a large roasting pan spanned across two burners for this preparation. Also have a sheet pan with drying rack, to put the scaloppini on, after they are cooked.
2 shallots (fine dice)
1 Tbls. Fresh sage (fine dice)
1-pound cremini mushrooms (washed and sliced)
1 ½ cups Dry Marsala (look for a good brand)
1-¼ cups chicken stock
1 ½ Tbls. fresh parsley (minced)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
2-½ pounds pork tenderloin, chicken breast or veal (cut and tenderized into scaloppini about ¼ inch thick)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 Tbls. butter
6 Tbls. olive oil
Prepare the scaloppini. No matter which meat you’ve chosen to use the process, it’s nearly identical. If using pork tenderloin, trim most of the fat from around the loin and slice into ½ inch cutlets. For chicken, one breast should yield about five - six cutlets.
Season the cutlets lightly, on both sides, with salt and pepper. Then coat them in flour. Make sure to shake off any excess flour.
In a roasting pan (spanned across two burners on medium heat) add 4 Tbls. of olive oil and 2 Tbls. of butter. Allow the butter and olive oil to come up to temperature. Watch as the butter begins to foam. Once the foaming has settled (that’s the water cooking out), you can begin to add the cutlets, one at a time. If you can’t fit all the cutlets comfortably into this pan then cook off the second batch separately. Turn the cutlets once they have formed a good sear on one side. When both sides have been seared, remove the culets from the oil and rest them on a sheet pan.
Drain all the fat from the roasting pan and add 2 Tbls. olive oil and 2 Tbls. of butter. As the oil and butter come up to temperature, scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the cooked on bits from the cutlets (the fond).
Now add the shallots and stir to coat them in the oil. Then add the sage leaves and the mushrooms with a healthy pinch of salt. If the pan looks dry, you can add a little more butter or olive oil, but remember that the mushrooms will begin to let out some of their water while cooking.
Cook the mushrooms and stir regularly for about five minutes. The mushrooms should begin to shrink, and the liquid they release will cook off.
Now raise the heat to medium-high and add the Marsala. Bring it up to a boil and let it reduce for about a minute.
Next add the chicken stock and stir. Bring this mixture back up to a boil and reduce until the sauce begins to thicken (about 5 minutes).
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Lastly, add the cutlets back into the pan and allow them to warm in the sauce as it continues to reduce. Flip them after a minute and, once you see that they are taking on a slight glaze from the sauce, turn off the heat. Add about half of your chopped, fresh parsley and stir it into the sauce.
Plate onto warmed plates. Try to place the cutlets onto the plate first, leaving as much of the sauce as possible in the pan. Once you are happy with the arrangement on the plates, stir the remaining sauce in the pan and spoon it over the cutlets on each plate. Make sure to evenly distribute the mushrooms. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley, clean the rims of the plates and serve.