Cooking with Alcohol Workshop – First in a 3-Part Series

Chicken Marsala finished with fresh parsley

Chicken Marsala

Spinach Risotto

Spinach Risotto

We had 6 people here for our Wednesday night workshop, Cooking with Alcohol. We made my favorite classic old school dish, Chicken Marsala paired with Spinach Risotto. What I love about the Chicken Marsala recipe is that the chicken is not breaded and is still one of the true authentic Italian recipes out there.

Thankfully, since it was such a nice night, everyone started by enjoying a beverage out by our outdoor fireplace.

Before we tackeled our two recipes, we took a trip to the greenhouse to pick some of the first spinach of the season to use in our risotto.

Chicken Marsala is one of the best recipes to show a variety of techniques such as marinading, tenderizing, butterflying chicken, sauce reduction and clarifying butter. Some of the girls had never tried these techniques, so it was a great learning opportunity for them.

Our sauce reduction took about 10 minutes, which is a practice in patience. However, it’s well worth the wait. Reducing sauces creates such a rich and flavorful sauce that fills the house with a lovely smell. Most great “flavors” in food comes from aromas in the nose rather than the mouth. (Ever notice how you can’t fully taste the food when you have a stuffed up nose?)

The risotto (also known as arborio rice) was also a learning opportunity since most hadn’t tried their hand at making this saucy kind of rice. Making risotto is more of a hands on art in contrast to making rice (in which you boil it and put on the lid). Risotto requires that you add liquid a cup at a time until the liquid is absorbed. It can take up to 5 cups of liquid for a cup of risotto. You add the liquid until the rice is soft and not al dente. We finished it off with Parmesan and spinach. It made a nice accompaniment to our chicken.

When it came time to plate up, we were ready. Along the way, I encouraged everyone to sample the dish so we could make adjustments if necessary. It’s especially nice to make a dish as a group and then sit down and enjoy. Everyone is part of the end result and feels connected.

Each of our workshops have been unique. I think each individual brings something different; in the way they perceive cooking and their enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to the next two classes: Tequila Chicken and Homemade Marinara Sauce.

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