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Didn’t Think Chicken Could Turn You On? Think Again.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably already know that I don’t cook a whole lotta plain ol’ chicken dinners.

Every now and then I get a hankering for a lightly salted and peppered drumstick thrown on the grill with those lovely little blackened bits and maybe a side of coleslaw.  But usually, if I’m cooking chicken, it’s getting the royal treatment — like tossing it with a gooey, caramelized, Adobo-spiced sauce for tacos; bathing it in a hot-tub of rich red wine and veggies and fancified with a French name; or safely tucking it inside warm biscuits filled with melty cheese and salsa.

And dinner from the other night was no exception.

I thought was simplifying my life by making some simple, roasted chicken.

I thought wrong.

This ain’t yo’ mama’s chicken, kids.

This chicken is sophisticated.

It should probably be wearing a maroon chenille bath robe and smoking a pipe, with all its delicious snobbery.

I have to say that not only is this probably the best chicken I’ve ever encountered, but it’s probably one of the best meals I’ve ever made.  I’ll keep this one in the vault for when I need something to impress company or for when I need to make myself feel really, really special.

It’s Roasted Chicken in Marscapone Mustard Marsala Sauce, and I have a woman named Rina from I Thee Cook to thank for the original recipe.  Don’t be thrown by the “mustard” in the title.  It tastes nothing like mustard.  It tastes like slowly melting angels on your tongue.

Or something less… violent.

I’m not gonna lie — there are a couple of splurge-worthy items in the ingredient list.  But don’t skimp or substitute for something cheaper — using the real stuff is so, so worth it.

For the chicken itself, you will need:

  • 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs (I used 4 leg quarters.  Anatomy lesson: leg quarters are a thigh and drumstick still attached to each other.  Math lesson: 4 leg quarters, each with 1 drumstick and 1 thigh, equals 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs.  Economics lesson: You wouldn’t believe how much money it’ll save you to buy your chicken parts still attached to each other. Who knew cooking could make me so smart?)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (next time I will cut this back or out completely — mine was a little on the salty side)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • Optional:  1-2 Tbsp. olive oil (I added this to the dry rub to make it a… wet rub.)

For the sauce, you will need:

  • 2 oz. pancetta, diced (pancetta is kind of like bacon, but not. Do NOT substitute bacon! The closest I could get was pre-diced stuff in front of the deli counter at my fancy grocery store. I used the entire container, which probably has something to do with why my chicken was a wee bit salty)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 shallots, peeled and halved (these are like tiny onions — you can get them in most grocery stores near the onions)
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 (16 oz.) can chicken broth (Rita uses fat-free and sodium free. I did not. Again, probably contributed to my salt factor.)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped FRESH thyme
  • 1/2 cup Marscapone cheese (this is a little like cream cheese. But don’t use cream cheese. Use Marscapone. Thank you.)
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground mustard (I just used regular ground mustard because that’s what I had)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Whew.  This looks a little overwhelming, I know, but half of that is me rambling about the ingredients — not the ingredients themselves.  And you’re about to see that it’s really not difficult to make.

1)  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Combine the teaspoon of salt (next time I will leave this out if I don’t use sodium-free broth), teaspoon of pepper, teaspoon of onion powder, and teaspoon of garlic powder.  I added a little more than a tablespoon of olive oil to this rub and then spread it all over the chicken.  Place the chicken in a roasting pan (I used a glass pan because that’s what I had), and bake for about an hour (until a thermometer reads at least 180-degrees F).

Whew.  That takes care of the first set of ingredients.

2)  Gather your pile of shallots and garlic cloves.  Whisper sexy words into their ears while slowly peeling off their layers.  The goal is to get them naked.  Or, you could just chop off the shallot heads, then cut them in half from root to tip, and peel them that way.  Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and the peel should slip right off.  Normally I try to pick love over violence, but it’s definitely faster this way.

3)  Meanwhile, grab your container of pancetta.  Try to ignore how much you spent on it.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  Toss it into a pan over low heat and cook for about 5 minutes.

4)  After 5 minutes, remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside.  Then toss your naked shallots and garlic into the lovely grease left behind, increase your heat to medium, and saute the garlic and shallots for 10-15 minutes until nicely browned.  Don’t panic if your shallots fall apart a little.  And if some smaller pieces start to get a little too brown, simply remove them from the pan and toss them in with your pancetta.  When it’s all cooked, remove every morsel from the pan and set aside with the pancetta.

5)  Add the 1/4 cup of marsala wine to the pan to deglaze it, and let it cook down for a few minutes.  Then add the 14 oz. chicken broth, shallots, garlic, pancetta, and also 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme, 1 tsp. ground mustard, and 1 tsp. honey.

6)  Cook the sauce, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.  If it will still be awhile before the chicken in the oven is cooked, throw a cover on it and reduce the heat to low to keep it warm until the chicken is just about done.  When you’re about ready to serve, stir in the 1/2 cup of Marscapone cheese.

It will melt and give the sauce a nice, thin, creamy consistency.

7)  Remove the chicken from the oven and move it to a serving dish.  Pour the sauce, shallots, garlic and all, over the top of the chicken.  If I’d used a fancier serving dish than my ugly blue one, this would have looked stunning.  And the smell?  I can’t even describe it.  Incredible.

Oh, my.

This is nothing short of delectable.

Of course, this photo was taken before I poured massive amounts of Marscapone sauce over everything.

Oh, and think you don’t like cooked carrots?  Think again.  Make these, undercook them slightly, and then eat.  They are fantastic.

Enjoy!  Thanks, Rina!!

Petition to Re-Label Halloween the Holiday of Hope and Good Cheer. I’m Not Even Joking.

I don’t exactly know why, but Mondays have started taking on a lot more pressure since starting this blog.  I have to tell you that I spend the day feeling terrible — terrible — if I can’t knock out a post on a Monday morning.  I feel like I let you down.

Is it more excusable if a missed Monday happens to be a holiday?

Didn’t think so.

Especially when it’s a holiday I’ve already kind of openly admitted that I don’t take very seriously. Like last year, I spent the evening passing out candy from my neighbor’s front porch.  Only this year I graduated from hiding a wine glass behind the railing to hiding a martini glass.

Because if you’re going to force me to sit outside for 2 hours when it’s cold and raining, you can bet your slutty bunny ears that I’m going to do what it takes to stay warm.

I have to admit, though, the little kids kind of get to me on Halloween.  In a good way.  They soften my cold, anti-kid Grinchy heart with their tiny pink tutus and sparkling bug antennae and Harry Potter glasses.  The ones who actually walk door-to-door with their parents (as opposed to riding inside the ever-popular neighborhood golf carts or, even worse, hopping into the back of the family mini van to ride 200 feet down the street at a time) get extra candy.

I mean… really, parents?  This is North Carolina, not the North Pole.  You’re not going to freeze to death while walking your kids from house to house on Halloween.  Especially if you pack a flask.  You might even find that you… I don’t know… bond.  Plus, you’ll feel a lot less guilty about the occasional Reese’s you snag from their bags.


As much as the little kids get me with their doe-eyed, sugar-highed cuteness, the big ones get to me, too.  In a not good way.

You know the ones I’m talking about.

Usually they’re boys, and they’ve reached that age — maybe 12 or 13 — where they apparently feel a little too old to dress up, but apparently not too old to walk door to door begging for handouts.

Except they don’t even beg.

Just try getting one to say, “trick-or-treat.”  I dare you.

They just stare at the bowl of candy, avoiding eye contact with homeowners (or in my case, the martini-laden girl who sits on the front stoop with a bowl of chocolaty goodness), holding out their pillowcases.  Then, when they’ve gotten what they came for, they turn and hightail it out of there, fixing their Justin Bieber hair beneath their hoodies so they’ll still look good when they go home to take photos of their hauls to post on Facebook.

They don’t even say thank you.

And that’s what ticks me off the most.

If you’re old enough to make the conscious decision to not dress up for Halloween and yet still go door-to-door taking candy from strangers, you’re old enough to say “thank you.”

And I let them know that.

And then my neighbor yells at me because she’s afraid I’m going to get her house egged.


It was about time to close up shop last night when a few stragglers came rambling down the driveway.  Tall stragglers.

Great, I thought, here come these teenagers who think I owe them something for throwing Daddy’s Army jacket over their Polo shirts to take the last of my chocolate.  MY chocolate.

I sighed and took one more sip from my sidecar before they got close enough to notice.

But wait.  What’s this?  They’re wearing costumes?  Costumes that took… effort?

“Nice costumes!” I said with a smile when they approached the stoop.  “Though I’m not sure what that one is.”  I pointed to the kid in the middle.

“I’m a Central American revolutionary fighter!” he said with a proud smile.

No.  Frickin’.  Way.

Not only did this kid know there were people with real political struggles outside of the U.S., but he knew there were people outside of the U.S.

It totally blew my mind.

“Really?” I asked.  “Which country?  Nicaragua?  Guatemala?”

“I didn’t really specify,” he said with a laugh.  “But I’d love to visit Costa Rica one day.”

Of course that opened the floodgates.  After all, I spent 2 months there last year.  We spent a few minutes excitedly discussing the merits of work exchanges, and I could literally see the light behind his eyes as he mentally explored the boundary-less possibilities.  His friends piped in with their passion for travel as well, and then they made their way back up the driveway after exchanging “thank yous” and “goodbyes” in English, Spanish, and German.

They said thank-you.

No, they said thank you very much.

I was flabbergasted.

And elated.

And it made me happy to think that these kids — especially the one in the middle — probably would travel and experience the world.  They might even make a difference.  Something I’ve failed, so far, to make myself do.  And I wanted to call their parents and thank them for giving me hope for the future — for raising little people who cared about more than trying to get famous or which Kardashian is getting divorced.

Is that a little much?


But it doesn’t change the fact that this year for me, Halloween — that holiday I usually face with amused disdain — turned into the holiday of Hope.

And any time Hope comes pre-packaged with adorable fairy princesses and mini Peanut Butter Cups is just fine with me.

Thank you very much.