It is, of course, a very poorly kept secret that being my pal is a gift that keeps on giving. As an example one of these pals emailed me that she was having a gentleman caller--the leading candidate for beau, no less--over for dinner on St. Valentine's Day and was at a loss as to what to provide, seeing as how he wished for something in a South Italian vein BUT had some sort of food issues that precluded a very tomato-y presence.
Naturally, I was able to help:
Dude...Chicken Marsala! Or Chicken Saltimbocca.
8 chicken scaloppine (about 3 ounces each) Salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or EVOO (in this case, I prefer butter) 1 large shallot (or 1/4 sweet onion), finely chopped 2 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed 2 ounces cremini (or porcini or plain ol' button or some combination) mushrooms, sliced 1/2 cup sweet Marsala 3/4 cup chicken broth (low-salt aseptic organic, if'n you must buy it) Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig (use thyme, if'n you wanna)
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Put 2 tablespoons of butter/oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add another tablespoon of butter or oil, if necessary. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of butter/oil to the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add another tablespoon of butter/oil, if necessary. Add the mushrooms and saute until SLIGHTLY caramelized, tender and the mushroom juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the Marsala. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the rosemary leaves. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Return the chicken and juices to the skillet. Cook just until heated through, turning to coat, about 1 minute. Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Using tongs, transfer to plates. Spoon the sauce over and serve.
For saltimbocca, just wrap the chicken in prosciutto (with a bit of fresh sage) and omit the mushroom, and use dry Marsala.
A nice pasta would be a bit of capellini with sundried tomato pesto (MUCH less acidic than regular tomatoes, and, besides, you use less)...I just use half a small jar of SDTs in EVOO, pureed with a 3 cloves fresh garlic, and a bit of salt.
The default red wine for basic Italian stuff is Montepulciano d'Abruzzo or Barbera d'Asti/d'Alba. Loads of fruit, pleasant acidity, minimal tannins and WAAAAAY food friendly. The white wine equivalent is Principessa de Gavi (my spelling may be off, sue me) or any other Gavi (Gavi dei Gavi, or Cortese de Gavi). Idiot proof stuff. Oh, and get biscotti or amaretti for your espresso or Vin Santo.
Break a leg!
P.S. If you use dried porcini, soak them into the chicken broth so as not to waste any of the flavor.