I like my chicken dishes like I like my midgets: Boneless, braised in their own stock, but with crispy skin.
This is not exactly a typical Chicken Marsala recipe. I like to do the veggies/aromatics by themselves with the Marsala. Meanwhile, I braise the chicken in the oven with the bottom half simmering in stock and the skin half roasting in the high heat. The meat is succulent while the skin is crispy and delish. Any cuts of chicken work but boneless thighs are my favorite. They are succulent and nobody has to fuss with bones. Bone-in is fine too. Legs and thighs are the best for a dish like this. Breasts are dry and dull. This is not the best dish if you are counting calories so save the chicken breasts for a salad or a low fat dish.
In order to follow my recipe you will need the right cookware to braise the chicken in the oven. You can use a dutch oven or cast iron. I use a 6 quart stainless steel saute pan in this recipe. Whatever you use, it must be stove-top and oven safe up to 500 degrees F. Cast iron is the cheapest and most durable but harder to lift. A dutch oven is basically enameled cast iron, so it looks nicer and costs more. Stainless steel does not weigh as much, is easier to get in and out of the stove, but costs more. Whichever you chose, I will refer to this item as the braising pan. You will also need a large frying or saute pan. I hate non-stick cookware. I recommend cast iron or stainless steel because you want to be able to brown the bottom of your pan with hunks of food and spices. This is called FOND. We deglaze a pan with liquid and turn that fond into deliciousness. You have to be able to scrape the bottom. Try that with Teflon and that junk ends up in your food.
- 2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, skin on
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp high heat oil or fat (I use avocado oil)
- 3 cups sliced mushrooms (Any combo: Cremini, oyster, shitake, portobello)
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced or sliced on a truffle shaver
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1.5 cups Marsala wine – Good stuff from the wine section, not shitty “cooking wine”
- 2 cups warmed chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 2 Tbsp sour cream (or more for a creamier/thicker sauce)
- Zest of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tsp to 1 tbsp)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (about a half oz)
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp minced thyme
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tbsp salt-free seasoning (optional) – I use the Costco stuff.
- Fresh chopped Italian parsley, to garnish (optional)
Trim the extra skin from your chicken and lay it out on a sheet or container. Sprinkle it with the salt, paprika, and poultry seasoning (if using). It’s best to do this the night before or at least a few hours prior to cooking but it’s not required.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. If you have a convection setting, use it. I use convection roast. Put your braising pan on the stove top on high heat. Add in your oil and let it get sizzling hot. Place the chicken skin side down. Don’t do all the chicken at once or it will cool the oil too fast. Work in batches and brown the chicken on both sides for flavor. You don’t need to fully cook the chicken, the oven will do that. Remove the chicken when browned and place them on a plate.
Hopefully, the bottom of your braising pan will be covered in bits of brown food and spices that are stuck to the bottom. That is called fond and we want that for flavor. Deglaze the bottom using a cup or less of your chicken stock. Lower the heat and pour it in a little at a time so the hot oil does not splatter. Use a spatula or scraper to get those bits of stuck food up from the bottom. They will unstick as the stock steams in the oil and mixes into the liquid.
Place the chicken back into the braising pan with the skin side up. Pour in the rest of the chicken stock until the bottom half of the chicken pieces are submerged but the skin is exposed to the air. If your braising dish is too large or small for this recipe, you may need more or less liquid to get chicken half submerged correctly. If you have left over stock, save it for later. If you run out of liquid, steal a half cup of Marsala from your stash. Be careful not to overload it with Marsala. We’ll be adding that to the veggies and we don’t want a Marsala bomb. You can add white wine too. Transfer the braising pan into the oven and let it braise for 30 minutes.
On the stove, put a large pan on high heat, add in 1 tbsp butter, and saute the mushrooms for about 15 minutes until they release their water and start getting golden. Add the onions and the thyme, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest. Saute another ten minutes until the onions release their liquid. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter into the mushroom and onion and then sprinkle the flour on top. Stir until the fat and flour form a gooey roux.
Then pour in the remaining Marsala wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits and roux stuck to the bottom. The wine and the roux should form a light gravy. Place this on low and let it simmer so it will thicken.
If you are cooking bone-in chicken you will need to check it with a thermometer stuck in the thickest part until it reaches 165 degrees F. Boneless thighs will cook completely in 30 min. At this point check to see if the skin is as crispy as you want it. As you can see in the photo, I cranked my oven up to 450 F and let it go another 15-20 minutes until the skin was brown and crispy. Remove the thighs and place them on a plate. Carefully bring your braising pan out of the oven and place it back on the stove top on medium heat. If you had to use extra liquid, ladle some of it out into a bowl and set aside. You can reincorporate it later if needed once you get a sense of how thick or thin the sauce is.
With your chicken set aside, transfer the mushroom and onion saute into the braise pan so that the Marsala batch mixes with the chicken stock braising liquid. You can simmer this on low until it become a nice sauce. It does not need to be a gravy, it just needs to cling to pasta. Add in the rest of your stock or more Marsala if it is too thick. When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add in sour cream to thicken further.
Place the chicken back into the pot with the mushrooms and sauce.
Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with fresh minced Italian parsley.
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves or quarters
- 1 cup roasted red bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, or a mix)
- 1 cucumber, cubed
- 1 red onion, diced into medium chunks
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbles or chunks
- Half cup Balsamic vinaigrette
- Half oz fresh basil leaves, minced (about 10-20 large leaves)
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
I often go to casinos for work and have my food comped. It makes sense for them to comp my food, otherwise I charge it to my corporate card and we bill it back to them. Comping my food means they can feed us at cost rather than retail. They use the same comp system that they use for gamblers. They don’t track what you had or when. It’s just a “comp”.
Usually when I check in they inform me of my comps and explain the restrictions. Typically they comp food only, no alcohol, and you can eat anywhere except their big steakhouse or fancy-pants restaurant. The restriction is imposed through the point of sale machines at each restaurant.
Most every casino/resort has a lounge or bar that serves food and they always comp the bar food because it is cheap. These bars almost always let you order a steak from their big steakhouse if you ask. When they ring it up at the bar instead of at the steakhouse it is flagged as a comped meal.
The second trick is to charge all the alcohol to your room and pay with the company card. The hotel bill only shows the amount and that it was from a restaurant. I then expense this as dinner. They still bill it to the client; the client can’t dictate where we eat. The expense billings we send them are huge and involve hundreds of employees. They just pay.
Food comped. Alcohol expensed.
Doing stand up comedy in the beginning is strangely terrifying. Nothing is going to hurt you up there, but when you’re doing poorly the crowd feels your fear and they seem to amplify it with their reaction. They get uncomfortable and that makes you more self conscious about bombing. It can take years for comic to reach that point where they stop caring about bombing. It’s like learning to ski or ice skate. You have to fall down in order to get over your fear of falling down.
On Sunday, July 10th, my improv troupe The Sandbox Association performed during half time for the NBA Summer League Game at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. There were at least 2000 rabid NBA fans there. Of the six people in our improv troupe, only three of us could be there. We did a game called “Sports Center.” This is how we described it on our website (seen in the screenshot above):
“The Sandbox asked for a simple everyday household activity and one basketball fan yelled ‘mopping’, and with the help of another audience volunteer the crowd witnessed the mock Olympic mopping competition narrated by none other than Sandbox newscasters.”
Many comedians I know remember the moment when they stopped being afraid to bomb. It’s usually a heckler they remember or some set when they did really well. For me it was this NBA halftime show. This was the single most brutal incident I’ve ever experienced performing in front of people going all the way back to doing stand up for the first time as a freshman in high school.
The fake “mopping” competition started and I went to TOWN, Jack! I was all over that floor like a spastic. The kid who volunteered to “compete” against me looked at me as if I was insane and quickly walked off. The crowd did not just boo us, they were ANGRY booing. They got up in droves and fled to the concession stands. “YOU SUCK!!!
In my mind I was glad they were upset. I wanted to perform harder to make them even more angry at me. It was a turning point in my life. That was the moment I stopped looking for validation from other people. Being on stage no longer frightened me. Speeches, presentation, comedy, acting, playing music, doing anything before an audience does not phase me anymore. I don’t care how large the crowd or how unprepared I am. That event made me fearless.
The organizer of the event apologized and paid us. We left a bit shaken and glad it was over. My two troupe mates said to me, “Wow you really committed to that.” And I said, “Yeah, the harder they booed me the more I gave.” They asked why. Why perform harder for people being that rude?
“Because, “ I said.
“Fuck ‘em! I hope I ruined their whole goddamn week.”
In recent months, potential good fortune presented itself to Misty and me. Shortly after I left my job I immediately had interviews with Kronos, an HR systems company, for a fantastic pre-sales solutions consultant position. It had great pay, it was work from home, great place to work, and exactly the kind of job I want. I aced my interviews. They flew me to Indianapolis for the final test: an in-person presentation to the pre-sales team, which I nailed.
After eight years of seeing a neurologist for chronic daily headaches, Misty’s doc wanted her to have a lumbar puncture, a spinal tap. She was in a car wreck decades ago. Whiplash can wreak havoc on the skeleton. A previous MRI showed that Misty has bone spurs, disc problems, and a small syringomyelia in her spine. All of these things can cause problems with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). If low pressure was measured during a lumbar puncture it would be a clear sign of a CSF leak. She has all the symptoms of spinal fluid hypotension. We were very excited because if confirmed, a CSF leak is curable. She’d finally have an end to her headaches.
On March 28 I arrived home from Indianapolis fully confident I would get that job. I’ve never had a job interview go better. The hiring manager seemed proud of me. She gave me advice after the virtual presentation I gave her the week prior. My improved presentation impressed her. The people in my final interview gave me nothing but overwhelmingly positive feedback and they acted as if we’d all see each other again. I left Indianapolis feeling on top of the world, convinced I was about to get a fabulous new job with a large jump in pay. I was so confident that I stopped at Total Wine and Spirits on the way home, hours before Misty got off work, and dropped over $200 for a vintage bottle of 2002 Pol Roger Winston Churchill champagne.
I tasted the non vintage Pol Roger at a Vino Volo shop at the Portland airport and was completely blown away by how gorgeous it tasted as the waitress informed me that it was Churchill’s favorite champagne. To be honest, the bottle was $240 but I had a 20% off coupon for Easter. It would have been crazy NOT to buy it with that kind of savings!!! I am not one to be overly optimistic as I usually prepare for the worst. Standing in that wine shop with that expensive champagne, I heard that little voice in my head tell me not to count my chickens until they are hatched. I told that voice to piss off. I got home before Misty got off work and I hid the bottle with the plan to surprise her once I had the job offer in hand.
Today I drove Misty to get her lumbar puncture. She had been worried about how much it would hurt and thankfully she said it wasn’t bad. After her procedure she came out into the waiting room with her eyes floating and shaking her head. “Nope. Normal pressure.”
She cried off and on for a few hours feeling that this was the last chance to fix her headaches. I did research and found that normal CSF pressure does not rule out a CSF leak. They drew CS fluid and will test it for further signs of a leak like white blood cells, proteins, and some other things. This is not over, but today Misty felt defeated, hopeless.
This is common knowledge by now but I did not get that job at Kronos. I felt like a schmuck for spending $200 on a bottle of champagne before I got the news. I kept it hidden, figuring I would hold it for when I do finally get a job. Last night, on the eve of Misty’s lumbar puncture, I decided to surprise Misty and pop that bottle of Pol Roger in the event that she came back positive for a CSF leak. We got back from her test with the reality of normal CSF pressure. I already mentioned that her results so far do not rule out a CSF leak, but it’s discouraging. Low pressure would have been conclusive today and a great reason to celebrate, knowing her headaches will be cured soon.
I try to stay in the moment in life and I try to remain in a good mood but I anticipate the worst so I am not disappointed. Optimism can really set you up for horrible disappointment. It’s hard to remain positive, yet practical, and be persistent in spite of many let downs. This is especially the case with Misty who has endured more than eight years of constant daily headaches with no end in sight. That is why I am generally pessimistic about things. Yet, for some reason I went in the opposite direction with my Kronos interview and with Misty’s lumbar puncture. I threw caution to the wind and splurged on an expensive indulgence. After so many disappointments , that champagne remained in my house having outlived its original objective.
After we got home today, Misty asked me to please stop talking about CSF leaks and just let her watch TV while she recovers from the back pain caused by this procedure. She will push forward and keep seeking answers on her head pain, but today she earned the right to be in a bad mood. Meanwhile, I’ve been looking for work in the best job market in 18 years and nobody is calling me. I’m frustrated and time is running out for me, financially.
A few hours ago I went into our wine fridge and pulled out the bottle of Pol Roger that Misty didn’t know was there.
“I bought this right after my final Kronos interview. When I didn’t get that, I figured we would have it when I got some other job. Last night I decided I would surprise you today once you tested positive for low CSF pressure. This bottle was supposed to be for a celebration, but I think we should drink it tonight.”
“Because. Fuck ‘em!”
“No, we should save a champagne like this for a special occasion, like your birthday! Or when you get a job.”
“No. Let’s have it tonight. Carpe diem, rock out with your cock out, YOLO, and all that other bullshit. Good champagne doesn’t need a special occasion. It just needs to be chilled. If you need a reason to celebrate then we’ll toast to each other and then toast to the puppyheads.”
“I love you.”
(Solo: A Star Wars Story. In theaters May 25!)
- 2lb bonless chicken thighs. If there is any skin, leave it on.
- 3 large garlic cloves , minced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or more depending on heat preference
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cardamon (if you have it)
- Juice of two fresh lemons
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 1/4 cup of chopped italian parsley, cliantro, or a mix of the two.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- (OPTIONAL) One large heaping tablespoon of plain yogurt. I use a good, sour greek or mid eastern yogurt. The kind that is so sour that the hair on your ass curls up and falls off.
Combine everything into a ziplock bag or sealable container. Make sure all the goop is distributed all over the chicken. Let it marinate overnight.
Grill, broil, BBQ, or cook in a pan. Slice it up and eat that shit on a pita with yogurt shmutz, hummus, and other mid-eastern things and whatnots. Play Arabic music, strip naked, and do jihad on your genitals.
- Half pound of dried spaghetti
- 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter (a quarter stick)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- half cup pecorino*
- half cup Parmigiano-Reggiano*
*Using a full cup of pecorino-romano and no Parmesan is most traditional. I like to do a blend. Pecorino-Romano is made with sheeps milk and can be a bit gamey to most people. You are welcome to use parmesan cheese only if you wish. But buy a hunk of cheese and grate it yourself. The pre-grated Kraft in a can bullshit has anti-caking agents in it and will ruin your sauce.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoons salt. Cook the pasta al dente. Save a cup of the startchy pasta water before straining the pasta out.
Add the freshly ground black to a large sauté pan set over medium heat and toast until fragrant, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add a half cup of pasta water to the pan, then add the cold butter and olive oil and bring to a simmer. Swirl the sauce regularly so that the olive oil and butter combine.
Add the pasta to the pan and toss to combine with the sauce. On low heat add the cheese slowly while tossing or stirring so that the cheese melts evenly and makes a sauce with the water/butter/oil. Add more pasta water if needed to adjust the sauce to the right consistency.
The Pecorino region of Italy makes wonderful white wines that pair perfectly with this dish. In the photo below I served my cacio e pepe with a Pecorino white, oven baked halibut, and my caesar salad.
This is one of our regular healthy meals. It is flavorful, relativly low carb, high in protein, and we make it without meat. You can make more decadent with a few changes (noted in parentheses).
- 1 can refried beans
- 1 can black beans or kidney beans (or cooked ground beef)
- 1 onion
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil (or butter)
- 1 pint of enchilada sauce
- 1 cup cooked quinoa (or rice)
- 1 package of Mission Carb Balance “soft taco” tortillas (or standard tortillas, flour or corn)
- OPTIONAL – 16 oz of shredded hard cheese. We use a supermarket “Fiesta blend” or a pepperjack. Skip the cheese if you are counting calories
In a big pot, sauté the onions and bell pepper until tender. I let it sauté 5-10 min and brown a bit. Mix in everything except the refried beans, tortillas, and cheese. Simmer the MIX until it is no longer soupy. Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Heat the refried beans on the stove or microwave and blend in half cup of water to make the beans easier to spread. Make a single layer of tortillas on the bottom of a large casserole dish. I cut them in half or qurters to fill the space more efficiently. Spread all the refried beans on top of the tortilla layer. Spread half the MIX on top of the refried bean later. Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of the first MIX layer. Add a second layer of tortillas. Spread the rest of the MIX on top of the last tortilla layer. Top the entire casserole with the rest of the shredded cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the inside is hot. All the ingredients should have been pre-cooked there is no required temperature to hit.
It’s layered kinda like a lasagne but with the flavors of an enchilada. The name is something I made up. It is pronounced “lasagne” but I spelled it in Spanish syntax since it’s Mexican food-inspired.
A pint of hummus at Whole Foods costs $7. It barely cost them a buck to make it. I make my own not just to save money but I can control the fat calories.This is my reduced calorie hummus. If you want it to taste more decadent, double the amount of oil and tahini used and reduce the water accordingly.
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 tbsp tahini (See below to make it at home. It’s really easy)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp of water
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- OPTIONAL – 2-4 roasted garlic cloves. If you don’t want to roast the garlic, mince it, mix with with the olive oil, and microwave for a minute.
- OPTIONAL – 1/2 tsp berbere spice. This is an ethiopian spice mix. If you put this in your hummus it won’t taste like the traditional hummus I ate with my mid-eastern family. I add it to my hummus for some next-level shit. It’s amazing.
Blend for several minutes in food processor until it is a smooth paste. Refridgerate. Smear on stuff. Rub it on your ass, I don’t care. Try to comsume it within a week. By week two it starts to smell like Yasser Arafat’s dirty gooch after a long flight to Oslo to negotiate with Shimon Perez.
I soak and pressure cook an entire 1 lb bag of dried chickpeas on a weekend, use what I need for hummus, and freeze the rest for other batches. It’s far cheaper than even the cheapest canned chickpeas. But go ahead and ignore me, especially if you love it in the can. (Ba doomp boomp TSSSS)
What’s that? You don’t want to buy tahini? Good! Stores overcharge for tahini. Take one cup of sesame seeds, toast them in a pan for 5 min, and then run them in a food processor with 3 tbsp olive oil until it forms a gooey paste. Put it in an air-tight jar and it will keep for months in the fridge like peanutbutter.
- 12oz package of andouille sausage or smoked sausage. Ususually about 4 links.
- 1 pound raw shrimp (shell on)
- 1 pound diced dark meat chicken (raw or pre-cooked)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons vegetable oil (or chicken fat if ya got it!)
- 1 quart home made chickenstock (use store bought broth if you wanna break my heart)
- 8oz bottle clam juice
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 6 medium garlic cloves, minced ( I use a truffle shaver to make them paper thin)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup butter or chicken fat
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large onion or 2 medium (chopped) Approx 2 cups
- 1 cup celery (chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (chopped) Approx 1- 1.5 cups
- 1 green bell pepper (chopped) Approx 1- 1.5 cups
- 1 1/2 cups okra slices (fresh or frozen thawed)
- 1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Optional garnish: chopped parsley or green onion tops
- Extra cayenne for more heat ( I added another tablespoon)
- Extra smoke paprika (Another teaspoon for shits and giggles if you want)
I use homemade chicken stock. There are a thousand recipes online. Real stock will take your cooking up to gourmet level. Store bought broth is flavored water. Real stock contains minerals, geletin, and all the complexity you’ll find in restaurant cooking. It is a great way to make use of old chicken bones. Google it, ya lazy prick!
SHRIMP: Rinse your thawed, raw shrimp and peel off the shell and tail. Set the shrimp aside. Save the shell and tail!!
CHICKEN: If you have raw dark meat, dice it and set it aside. If you have cooked meat, you dice it and you are ready to go. Feel free to use bone in chicken. Or you can even seperate all the edible meat from the bones if you make your own stock. Waste not, want not.
SAUSAGE: Dice your andouille or smoked sausage into coins. Set aside. These are usually pre-cooked.
STOCK: Put your quart of chicken stock or broth in a sauce pot with the shrimp shells and tails. Pour in the 8oz of clam juice, the Worcestershire and let simmer for 20 min. You want your stock to taste complex. Strain out the solids when you are complete and add some water so you have 2 quarts of stock ready to go. You can do this days in advance if you wish.
ROUX: In a large pot or skillet, combine ½ cup unsalted butter and ½ cup flour. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes to make a dark roux. Stir with a whisk to prevent burning, especially in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Set aside.
Boil the okra (if raw) for 7-9 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Dump okra into a colander to drain the water and rise out some of the snot.
Put the vegetable oil (or chicken fat) into a large skillet. Saute onion, bell peppers, and celery. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. If you have raw chicken, add it now and cook it. Add in the garlic late. You don’t want it to burn. Add in cooked okra, diced tomatoes, and sliced Andouille sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bay leaf, cajun seasoning, thyme, basil, and cayenne. Add half of your stock. You may add more water depending on how thick you want the gumbo. Simmer over medium-low heat, for approximately 30 minutes with the pot loosely covered, stirring occasionally.
Reheat the ROUX and slowy whisk in the remaining stock until it become a nice gravy. Merge this gravy in with the veggies and meat and stir.
Add shrimp, and the pre-cooked chicken if that is what you have. Simmer another 30 min to let flavor come out. Shrimp cooks quickly. At the very end, add 6oz of tomato paste to thicken and sweeten it. Add more cayenne if you want it to be hotter’n a two-pecker billy goat.
Add salt to taste. Serve with rice.
Optional: Garnish with green onions and chopped parsley
Pray to the tushy god that you don’t have fire shooting outcho ass tomorrow.