ONE THING I LOVE about cooking is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just tweak it. There are classic combinations that you know work, and all you need to do is adapt the concept to what you have around. A favorite dish of mine is Veal Marsala, but veal scallopine is sometimes hard to come by and pricey. It’s not something I have hanging around in the fridge. Regulars on my shopping list trend more to chicken cutlets, pork tenderloin, stew meat and steaks. I keep a bottle of sweet Marsala on hand and I almost always have mushrooms. With the mushrooms and Marsala, I can make ordinary meats special in no time. If I’m in a rush, I make a quick sauté of sliced mushrooms and diced onion and finish with a splash of Marsala and some butter for a quick sauce for sautéed chicken or roasted pork tenderloin. When I want to add a steakhouse-style side to my strip-loin supper, I leave the small mushrooms whole and cut large ones into quarters. I quickly sauté until they are golden brown and finish with the Marsala just to glaze the mushrooms. When I have more time, I make a stew with cubes of pork shoulder, lots of onions, mushrooms, Marsala and chicken broth.
As for the mushrooms, you can mix and match varieties at will. I am currently obsessed with beech mushrooms for both their fantastic earthy flavor and their Willy Wonka-whimsical shape. King Oyster mushrooms are a great addition as well, with a firm texture and mild flavor, but I always make the bulk of the mushrooms cremini or white because they are so widely available. Mix and match at your pleasure.
Sautéed Chicken Cutlets or Roasted Pork Tenderloin With Mushrooms Marsala: Roast or grill the pork tenderloin, or, if using chicken cutlets, sauté until cooked through. Sauté diced onions in oil, then add the mushrooms and sauté until tender. (If you’re making the dish with chicken cutlets, you can use the same pan for the onion-mushroom mix; if you’re roasting the pork tenderloin, you can add the pan juices to the onions and mushrooms.) Add equal parts sweet Marsala and chicken broth to moisten, not drown, the mushrooms. Let reduce. Throw in some diced butter, salt and pepper. Mix together and serve over the cutlets or sliced tenderloin. If you have parsley, go and garnish as you’d like.
Steakhouse-Style Mushrooms: Keep small and medium-size mushrooms whole. Halve or quarter large ones. Sauté over high heat with diced sweet onion or shallots in a mixture of hot butter and oil until nicely browned. Add a splash of sweet Marsala, salt and pepper and cook just long enough to reduce the Marsala to a glaze.
Mushroom and Marsala Pork Stew: Brown cubes of pork. In a braising pot, sauté diced onions; when soft, add a few tablespoons flour. Cook until flour is dissolved. Add the browned cubes of meat, sweet Marsala and chicken broth in equal amounts to barely cover the meat; salt and pepper. If you have fresh thyme sprigs, throw those in as well. Bring to a slow boil. Cover and place in a 325-degree oven. Cook for 1 ½ hours until the pork is tender.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
LittleBird “Stephanie Cooks,” a/k/a Stephanie Sedgwick, addresses dinner ideas every Monday. You can see earlier suggestions by searching for My Dinner With in the Search box at the top of the page.