Filling the Days

As many people know, I recently (ok, this past July) left my job as manager of a local record store for the domestic life.  Though overall it was a great opportunity to expand my musical and cinematic tastes and I met many wonderful people, staff and customers alike, I’d had enough stress and decided it just wasn’t healthy for me anymore.  You know it’s time to leave a job when the entire drive home you can’t stop thinking about how you can’t WAIT to get home to your vodka bottle and erase the day.

Since I no longer have any obligations whatsoever aside from the occasional dinner with my family, I’ve had lots of time to fill.  It took some time to adjust, and it’s still a little weird.  What do you do all day when you can do pretty much anything?  Well, true to form, I mostly stay inside, though I do get up a lot earlier than i used to – usually around 8, and trying to creep towards 7.  The place where I live now is on the water and the early mornings are peaceful, so I enjoy waking up slowly with a big mug of hot tea most days.  I spend the hours before noon reading recipe feeds, catching up on the news, casually practicing French (while half-wondering if I should be working on my slightly-more-advanced-but-still-lousy Spanish skills instead…oh my GOD Rosetta Stone is a neat program!), planning and working on cross-stitch projects, watching Martha religiously (only applies to weekdays), working out…Not necessarily all of those things each morning, though!

To fill my afternoon hours, I usually head down to the kitchen and whip up some sort of baked treats or a nice dinner for Z (and often myself, but I need practice cooking meat).  I’m always on the lookout for new recipes, many of which I get from the feeds that are updated every morning on my home page.  At least half of the recipes, though, come from the myriad food blogs whose feeds I also subscribe to in a different category on the homepage.  I have a ridiculously long list of them at this point, and the majority of them are also bookmarked separately so I can fill any idle hours with archived goodness.  Having so many sources of recipes means that all sorts of cuisines, tastes and skill levels are represented.  Many I just bookmark for later, thinking I just don’t know how to do one of the procedures required but SOMEDAY, or I don’t have a pricey ingredient but OH I WILL, or it’s just not the right season for something but MMM NEXT YEAR…Occasionally, though, I’ll turn to Z and say “would you eat *insert random dish, usually something with meat so I actually care if he’d eat it or not*?”  The response is often “what? I’m busy,” but every once in a while it’s a thoughtful (or even excited) “yes please!”  This recipe is one that elicited a more enthusiastic answer, and is only slightly adapted from the relatively new and very attractive Pithy & Cleaver.

Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms (original recipe)

Looks so warm and comforting, like you could just crawl in between the mushrooms and rice.
Looks so warm and comforting, like you could just crawl in between the mushrooms and rice.

3 large-ish chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes (it was what was on sale this week)

8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed & sliced

8. oz. baby bella mushrooms, stemmed & sliced

1 medium-sized onion, halved & sliced

1 cup marsala wine

1 cup chicken broth

2-3 tsp fresh sage, minced

1 Tbsp butter

approx. 1 Tbsp flour

salt & pepper, to taste

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet, then add the chicken and saute until just done on the outside (a couple of minutes), or slightly longer if you prefer your chicken to be a little crispier in general.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.  Add more oil to the skillet and reheat (to medium), then add the onion.  Saute until translucent, then add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until they’re juicy.  Add the marsala and stir it occasionally until it simmers, then add the chicken broth and repeat.  Once everything simmers again, add the sage and allow it to simmer for a couple more minutes.  Return the chicken to the skillet, cover it and turn the heat down to low.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken and mushrooms with a slotted spoon and transfer temporarily to another receptacle.  Add flour and butter to the juices in the skillet and whisk until everything forms a thick gravy.  Put the chicken and mushrooms back into the skillet and season with salt and pepper.  We ended up serving this over white rice, but it might also work over wide egg noodles or maybe just spooned over a thick piece of whole grain bread.

I’ve never cooked with wine or fresh sage and I rarely use onions because I don’t generally care for them, so there were a lot of new experiences involved for me.  I learned that sage is fuzzy and smells AMAZING (like all fresh herbs and spices) and that no matter what you say to the onion, it won’t stop stinging your eyes.  Overall this was a really fun and easy recipe that I’ll definitely try making again.  The thickening stage was listed as optional in the original recipe but Z didn’t really like it before I went ahead with it, and his opinion of the dish in general seemed to go from “ok” to “tasty!” when he had the leftovers the next night over the rice, as opposed to alone.  I suppose that the chicken may have absorbed more of the juices in the fridge overnight, so maybe I’ll try marinating it a little beforehand next time, possibly in a little marsala with some roughly torn sage.

I actually made a cheese-stuffed acorn squash/pumpkin hybrid to go along with it, which I’ll post about tomorrow.  It was all right – it was hard to gauge the sweetness of the squash before baking it and unfortunately it was a little too sweet to work well with the filling, but it was a very attractive vegetable and I got some really nice shots of it.  I don’t know if I’ll make that particular recipe again, but it was worth a try and I didn’t want to completely waste the squash.


  1. oh, wow! that looks amazing! I’m already excited to see the stuffed squash recipe–i’m always looking for good ways to prepare those!

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