Inspiration, a Challenge

I haven’t been doing a lot of “inspired” cooking lately.  Instead it has been more like, “what can I quickly throw together that is nutritious, easy, and can sit?”  Between playground and homework, dishes and Legos, dinner needs to be made.

Inspired cooking happens when you have the time, minimal distractions, and the impetus to go beyond.  Typically it is the weekend, when you can open a bottle of wine and lose yourself picking thyme leaves and slicing shallots.  It happens when the seasons start to change and the heartier meals bring comfort.  It happens when a loved one has requested something or when a birthday demands a celebration.

Last month, I was the winner of the Wandering Gourmand Beer versus Wine Challenge and with that comes the privilege of choosing the next month’s contest.  The inspiration came in the form of my husband’s birthday and his request for Chicken Saltimbocca.  If you’ve had it, or looked up how to make it, you know that there are a variety of takes on this classic Italian dish.  It can be veal or chicken, rolled or flat.  Some people choose white wine, others use Marsala.  The staples are thinly pounded meat, sage, and prosciutto.  In typical form, I read through several recipes for ideas and cook times and then go with it.

I purchased thinly sliced chicken breast.  The pounding is my least favorite part (don’t ask why) and when you are cooking for 9, every bit helps. I decided to use saute the mushrooms ahead of time with butter, oil, and garlic.  when they were wilted, I threw in some chicken broth and Marsala and let them cook a bit longer.  I put the mushrooms in a bowl and used the same pan for the chicken.

I dipped each filet in flour, salt, and pepper, then sautéed them in the seasoned pan with butter and oil.  About 4 minutes on each side.  I placed all the chicken breast on a baking sheet and covered them with sage leaves and prosciutto.  I then baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes, until the prosciutto was a little crispy.

While they were in the oven, I reheated the mushroom with more broth and Marsala which I thickened with about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.

You could take this dish in many directions.  Use any of the above variations.  My husband has put provolone on top.  I’ve served it with sage polenta, acorn squash with braised leeks.  You could do garlic mashed potatoes or french bread.  Any vegetable would work, but I like a salad with a little shallot vinaigrette.  The acid cuts the rich saltiness of the dish.

So what to pair with this dish?  I tried a few wines and had my favorites.  But I want to hear from you.  Pop over to the competition on Wandering Gourmand and make your suggestion.  Any beer, cider, or wine you think would make the dish shine.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Cheers!

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Being a stay- at-home mom can leave one thirsting for a taste of the outside world, a world in which sentences are composed of more than three words. Being an educator means one is always seeking an opportunity to explore and learn. Being a woman with a need to connect can be a challenge when adult conversations are rare. In wine, I find the marriage of art and science, agriculture and storytelling provides limitless areas to explore. But it is the people that keep me engaged. The tenacity needed to keep the family dream alive, the risk to start anew, the trials and principles. I love the history of the vine, the impact of a season, the sentiment in the bottle. That is why I write. I write to tell their stories, to share a piece of mine. I write to learn as I teach others. I write to connect with new friends, to disconnect from the world. I write to celebrate what makes each of us unique, and that which ties us together.

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