Have a Seduction Meal at the Ready
Selina Man, owner of Café Chocolate of Lititz, calls it “the seduction meal.” Your signature dish. The one you make when you want to impress that special someone. The one you serve the first time you meet your future in-laws. The one you bring out for the dinner party with your best friends. She says everyone should have one.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The seduction meal doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to look like it is. Great flavor and presentation are really simple, especially if you start with high-quality fresh meats and produce, the kind grown here in Lancaster County.
Here’s my seduction meal. It was originally veal Marsala, an Italian restaurant favorite. But good veal is expensive and, for some, ethically questionable, so I make it with boneless chicken breasts. It is quick, simple, delicious and virtually foolproof. For a beautiful, tasty presentation, serve the dish with green bean bundles and a rice or whole-grain pilaf.
This whole meal takes about 45 minutes start to finish. The beans and the pilaf can be made while the chicken is simmering in the pan.
Pure Gold Chicken Marsala
3 heaping tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, sliced in half into flats
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
One medium onion, chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, to taste, minced fine
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup dry Marsala wine
2/3 cup stock (2/3 cup water and one whole chicken or vegetable bouillon cube)
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
Kosher salt to taste
Place the flour, salt, pepper and ginger in a large food-storage bag. Shake to mix well. Place two chicken halves in the plastic bag. Close the bag and shake until the chicken is well-coated with the flour mixture.
Preheat a large skillet to medium-high, then add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Immediately place two chicken pieces in the pan and cook until lightly browned, about three minutes a side. Remove and place on a plate in a warm oven (about 200 degrees). Repeat the procedure with the other chicken halves.
Add the onion and garlic to the same pan and sauté until the onion is tender, about three minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are lightly browned, about three to five minutes.
Add the wine and the stock to the pan and stir to loosen the cooking bits from the bottom of the pan, then place the chicken pieces back in the pan, spooning the vegetables over the chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the liquid reduces by one-third to one-half. Whisk in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with a bit of chopped parsley and serve.
To make the green bean bundles, simply thread whole green beans through yellow squash slices with the centers removed (as if the squash slices were napkin rings), sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme and cook them in a steamer basket over an inch of water for about four minutes until they are crisp-tender.
To make the pilaf, sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion and a finely chopped carrot in 2 tablespoons light olive oil in a heavy pot until tender. Add the rice or grain and sauté until it begins to brown. Add 3 cups chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. The pilaf and the chicken should be done about the same time.