It’s a Matter of Taste

Twice a year, we like attending the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in Des Moines at the Fairgrounds. This past visit we acquired a shopping cart full of books for less than $10.00.

Some people exclusively use Kindle, and many more buy recent books from Amazon or local book stores. Used book stores like Half Price Books is a good source for reading material, too. However, there are some things you can get at the semi-annual book sale at the Fairgrounds that you cannot find anywhere else. I suppose it’s a matter of taste where you find and purchase your favorite literature. Some of the best cookbooks we have bought came from the Planned Parenthood Book Sale.

One of the bargains we picked up this spring was a collection of recipes from a cookbook put together by “The Tall Corn Chapter of Club Managers”. Inside Private Club Kitchens (Jumbo Jack’s Cookbooks, Audubon Media Corporation, 301 Broadway, Audubon, IA 50025. Printed 2004) contains recipes created by chefs and culinary teams from some of Iowa’s top country clubs. Some of the recipes will feed sixty, and some will serve 2-4.

We perused the book prior to Easter, looking for a meal that is not traditional such as ham, or lamb, or popcorn and toast (oops, wrong holiday). We found a simple recipe for Chicken Marsala. The recipe called for “2 oz. clarified butter”. Normally, I would use regular butter. However, I remember making clarified butter (also called Ghee) in the mess hall while I was in the Army. I didn’t make it, but my particular mess hall had two Army cooks who were chefs on the East Coast before enlisting in the Army. One of them made it.

I Googled the process of making clarified butter and found out that it is really easy to make. Another discovery was that clarified butter is 100% butterfat – simply, an oil like vegetable oil, canola, coconut, and peanut oil. Clarified butter has a “higher smoke point, a longer shelf life, and [is] a more versatile substance for making everything from stir-fries to sauces.” It’s butter without the water and milk solids that burn easily. I made some.

Since making the Marsala Chicken on Easter, we have been using the clarified butter in many dishes we prepare. My favorite use is to pop popcorn with the oil. No need to add butter; the flavor is incorporated into the final product. With the milk solids that were left over, I made honey butter.

The clarified butter, the leftover milk solids, etc., may seem very fattening, and I won’t pretend that it isn’t, but it’s not that much more fattening than the oils I mentioned above. In my opinion, it’s more flavorful.

Here is the recipe we used for Easter dinner. It is easy to make, doesn’t take long, and when it’s finished – it looks fantastic on a plate. It may become a tradition in our house.

Marsala Chicken

Chef Alan Clark, Sioux City Country Club


8 oz. chicken breast

2 oz. clarified butter

1 oz. salt & pepper

1 pt. sliced mushrooms

6 oz. Marsala wine

4 oz. heavy cream

1 oz. brown sugar

Dredge chicken breast in flour. Sauté in clarified butter on both sides until browned, season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté: add sliced mushrooms, Marsala wine and brown sugar. Reduce by ¾. Add heavy cream and reduce until consistency becomes a caramelized glaze. Yield: 2 servings.

We served it with fresh steamed asparagus from our garden, wild rice salad, and hard rolls with honey butter. Because we have leftover Marsala wine, we will have to make this dish at least 3-4 times a year.



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