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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Chicken recipe a proud inheritance

Thursday, February 10, 2000

Tested by Nancy Anderson

Cheryl Vlasach of Kennedy is our third three-time Countdown to Dinner winner. Today's appetizing entree, Chicken Marsala, joins Spinach Feta Tortellini and Pan Crisped Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar as under-30-minute standouts.

The inventive cook learned how to make the dish when she was a teen-ager.

"My dad made it when I was in high school," she said. "He was trying to learn how to cook from a single man's cookbook, even though he wasn't single, because he thought the recipes would be easier."

Chicken Marsala was his only success. "It's the one thing he made that we liked," Vlasach said. "He tried to make meatballs but they crumbled in the sauce -- nothing turned out right." Except this dish.

Dad is Joe Mazzoni, who lives on Mount Washington. To his credit, he gave cooking his best shot -- and came up with a keeper that his daughter makes to this day.

"It is very easy and my husband, Jim, always asks for it," she said, adding that three chicken breast halves would be plenty for her family but she makes four because he loves the leftovers.

"The sauce sinks into the linguine and it's even more flavorful the next day," she said.

We'll agree as far as the pasta is concerned. The chicken was tender and delicious when freshly made and just as good the next day, but the linguine absorbed the marsala/mushroom sauce big time by the second day.

Use flour for dredging if you want to. Vlasach says it gives the sauce body but doesn't affect the taste of the chicken. We used seasoned breadcrumbs for even browning.

Vlasach still works part-time at the Presto, Pa., post office near Bridgeville and husband Jim is still with Lamar Advertising, Oakland. But daughter Sydney, 26 months old, now climbs a stool to give Mom a hand in the kitchen.

"When I'm cooking, I let her pour and mix," the proud mom said. Get 'em started early is our motto.

Chicken Marsala

3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 to 3/4 stick butter
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup Marsala wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
Flour or bread crumbs for dredging, optional

Pound chicken to 1/2 inch thick and dredge with flour if using.

Melt butter and saute garlic in pan. Add chicken and brown on both sides until partially cooked through -- about 5 minutes (see note).

Add mushrooms, wine and lemon. Heat to boiling, then turn low, cover and simmer a few minutes until chicken is done.

Serve over linguine noodles (put water on to boil before starting chicken) and dust with Parmesan (we lightly dressed the pasta with olive oil, garlic powder and dried parsley). Broccoli and a salad also go well.

Note: We don't have a skillet large enough for four pounded-thin chicken breast halves so we made it in two batches.

After sauteing the first two halves, we put them in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish while we sauteed the second two and added them to the dish.

We simmered the mushrooms, wine and lemon alone, then poured the sauce over the chicken breasts, covered with foil and baked at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

It was still done in 30 minutes.

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313.

Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number.

Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com

Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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