Tuesday, June 1, 2010

When I’m Depressed I Reflect on the Past. Then I Cook.

I read the news today. Oh, boy.

Now I can understand why John Lennon was so often depressed. The news in his day was often bad. Perhaps today even more so. Terrorism. Assassinations. Ecological disasters. Wall Street fluctuations. The Yankees five games behind at the start of the season. On and on. Deeper and darker. And yet, we as a people are resilient. I believe God has placed a spirit of ascendancy in humankind. A drive to rise above the muck and the mire.

We only need think about one of the greatest symbols of modern man’s quest for immortality – the Empire State Building. Bones of iron and steel anchored in bedrock…clad in panels of Indiana limestone…soaring 1250 feet into the ether…and built during one of our country’s darkest hours – the Great Depression.

Do you think this magnificent building would ever have been built if Morrie Stuckman hadn’t laid that very first brick?

Do you?

Of course it would’ve.

‘Cuz that idiot Morrie Stuckman laid the first brick in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, 31 miles from the Empire State Building. His uncanny ability to habitually show up at the wrong job site is just one reason why Morrie was never nominated for the Bricklayers Hall of Fame. The other reason being the fact that he erected the first section of scaffolding for the Chrysler Building in J. Edgar Hoover’s shorts.

But it still remains that even the longest journey begins with just one step. I’m often reminded of those immortal words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he stepped from the lunar module onto the moon: “That’s one small step for man,” he said with pride. Then looking back at the azure blue earth glowing in the distance, added, “And that’ll be one giant cab fare if they leave my ass on this god-forsaken rock.” Even today, those inspiring words bring tears to my eyes, as I’m sure they do yours.

But seriously. Sometimes we do lay the brick in the wrong state, but more often than not we lay it exactly where it needs to be. The important thing is we’re trying to do something productive. And if we erect scaffolding in a stranger’s drawers, so be it, as long as we recognize our mistake, tear it down, and rebuild it where it’s supposed to be.

You see, one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that there is a lot of wild and unpredictable Grace out there. Lots of opportunities for second, third, and even fourth chances.

Now that I’ve hopefully inspired us to do something, let’s grab that skillet and open up a bottle of Marsala ‘cuz we’re about to get busy.

Oh. And don’t let me forget to say Grace.

Bon appétit,



The rich, smoky flavor of Marsala defines this classic Sicilian dish; one that is traditionally prepared with veal. As in all of the wines used for cooking, Marsala does not have to be expensive. There are several reasonably priced domestic selections to choose from.

PREP: 10 minutes COOK: 20 to 25 minutes

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion (1 small onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 pound fresh mushrooms (or one 4-oz jar) sliced
2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
1/2 cup beef stock
Salt to taste


1. Dry chicken breasts with paper towels.
2. Place a breast between two pieces of plastic or wax paper and pound it to 1/4” thickness.
3. Heat the 1 tablespoon butter and the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
4. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off excess.
5. Add chicken breasts to the skillet and cook 4 minutes per side until meat is tender, lightly brown and opaque. Remove breasts to a plate and cover with another plate to keep warm.
6. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
7. Add mushrooms and sautè until lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes
8. Return chicken breasts to the pan and pour the Marsala and stock over chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until sauce is reduced by about 1/3. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and swirl. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with Buttered Noodles and Sautéed Spinach with Garlic.


  1. Chicken Marsala is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. My mother used to make it all the time when I was a kid and I just adore it. Thanks for the memory! (And for the reminder... haven't made it in awhile and I've been a bit depressed too... :)

  2. LOL, Abbey. Hope this spurs us both on to making great bistro/comfort food - even when we aren't depressed. :-)

  3. Hi Warren, this recipe sound so delicious, and I have never had chicken Marsala before. I have a question. I recently made braised short ribs, and while they turned out perfectly and my family loved them, I didn't care for the Merlot after taste. Is Marsala a prevailing taste in this dish?

    I am so sorry you are feeling depressed. I pray that tomorrow brings new hope, relief and refreshment of mind.

  4. The Marsala certainly adds a sweet nuance to this dish, Cheryl, particularly as it reduces a bit. The interplay between the sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms and the Marsala is classic and the dish wouldn't be the same if one substituted beef or chicken broth in place of the wine. I would give it a shot. The sweetness of the wine and sauteed onions will be very different from Merlot. Let me know what you think.