Indian cuisine, typically doesn’t work well with alcohol. The spice factor tends to make the dish more pungent than palatable. There are exceptions, however. Certainly, port wines, Marsala wines, and bourbon work well when combined with tomato-based sauces, the kind usually used in Indian masala dishes. A masala is nothing more than a thick sauce that coats the meat or vegetables rather than saturating them in gravy. I like to fix international foods for my family, but always with a distinctly Indian touch. The last time I made a beef pot roast the traditional, American way, my kids accused me of having a major senior moment, or many moments…a half hour’s worth at least. The meat was a unsavory brown color and tasted insipid. Too little flavor and downright nasty to contemplate at the dinner table. Even sprigs of vivid green parsley could not brighten up this sordid dish. We all agreed that the cut of meat probably looked like it was in better health uncooked. But I was loath to toss $10 worth of meat in the trash. Instead, I fried a large onion with ginger-garlic paste and fresh green chilies, added a dash of turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander powder and voila! The kids scarfed down the beef and we had no left overs. I learned my lesson then that in our family, if western food isn’t teased with Indian spices, then it’s not worth fixing.
A couple of years ago, I made Chicken Marsala Masala for our Christmas meal. I stuck to the basic method, but added my own variation. It’s an interesting dish and works well even on faint hearted and unadventurous palates. A lot of the prep can be done ahead of time, even the day before.
1 lb of chicken tenders, washed, patted dry and flattened with a meat tenderiser. Mix 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste and 1 tsp salt and rub the mixture into the prepared chicken tenders. Set aside.
Prepare the crumb coating for the chicken.
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1 tsp dried red chili
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
Beat 1 egg with a tablespoon of water and set aside.
Drench the chicken tenders in the egg mixture, shake off excess and dredge in bread crumb mixture. Arrange on a tray, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate ( overnight if you like or for at least a half an hour)
Prepare the sauce
1 can diced, stewed tomatoes
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 red onion finely chopped
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 sprig fresh basil
Puree the tomatoes. In a deep saucepan, fry chopped onion and crushed garlic in olive oil (1 tbsp). When the onions are soft, add the pureed tomato. Stir. Cook covered on low heat, until the oil rises to the surface. When the mixture has reduced by half, add the Marsala wine. stir. Cook for about a minute until the alcohol cooks off. Taste for salt. Garnish with fresh basil.
Pan fry the chicken tenders until both sides are golden brown. Serve with the sauce.
Goes well with any pasta, steamed rice, roti or fresh Italian bread.