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Maiale Al Marsala (Pork Marsala)

So in the 3 summer months I lived in Siena, Italy, learning the language before going to vet school in 1990, this wonderful Sienese housewife named, Serena, taught a traditional Italian cooking course associated with the language school in Siena. So, of course, I had to partake in starting a new hobby. We would start about 5 pm and make about 5 courses from scratch and then have a nice tavolata with classmates and friends with the usual local Tuscan wine every Monday and Wednesday. Then after my month of cooking classes was over, mainly because I was running out of funds to pay for it, I was able to be an invited guest to the tavolata having met a girl from NYC there in Siena studying the language as well. Oh how convenient!. I thought the heck with vet school! I’m going to open a restaurant back in the states after this is summer is over. Well I was better at eating than cooking at that time and was certainly much too raw in the kitchen for that to happen. No pun intended. But, when you are a vet student living on a shoestring budget you can’t afford any hobbies but the one that lies in preparing something to eat. So this is one of the dishes I learned to do pretty well over the 5 3/4 years of vet school there and I can’t visit my mother without having to make this for her back in California.

Maiale Al Marsala
Note: you can basically make any meat in this fashion such as chicken or veal or vegetarian substitutes such as the larger variety mushrooms.

Best cut of pork scallopini or thin slice pork steaks you can find (1-2 slices/person). Mangalitsa (wooly pig) would be great here and more healthfulJ. This is the same pork that we use to make the carbonara using the pancetta at that time.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic 3 cloves
  • Italian parsley, a handful
  • Semi sweet or sweet Marsala wine ½ - ¾ bottle, don’t get the cheap stuff. Italian Marsala is best but a few California brands will do if need be.
  • Vegetable or chicken broth, best quality
  • Your favorite mushrooms, fresh, a few handfuls
  • Flour, a couple of cups.

First of all, if its cool outside stoke up a nice fire.

Clear the palate with a glass of La Spinetta, Moscato di Asti (Guys, impress the ladies with this one), which is a slightly sweet sparkling wine and perhaps a salad with your own homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Take your time as this is a dish that is best made slowly over a good conversation and not turned and burned at a restaurant that has lost its Marsala-making soul, or never had it to start with, and leaves you feeling like you just crashed a poorly catered wedding.

Then, perhaps move on to a red wine and cheese to stoke up your culinary soul.

Gather your ingredients.

Again, this time I was cooking at my friend Erno Hollo’s home and, of course, cooked with the knife his father used during the second world war to slice the Mangalitsa pork steaks as thin as I could.

Then, flour the steaks lightly and put them aside.

Start some chicken or vegetable broth so it will be ready when the pork is browned

In the largest saucepan, or use 2 and divide the ingredients if cooking for more than 5 people, swirl olive oil a few times and add a couple tablespoons of fresh butter and slice a couple of cloves of garlic long ways and add the sliced mushrooms to fill the pan under low-medium heat covered.

Once the mushrooms are starting to brown, add the floured pork and brown them without burning the outside and add the parsley

Once the pork is browned, add the broth until the pork is fully covered and simmer under low-medium heat partially covered.

Stir frequently so the flour does not clump. Add the Marsala wine until the pork is floating in it.

This is the secret to this dish. Most restaurants don’t take the time to prepare this dish slowly (Simmering over 30-50 minutes total to slowly absorb all the flavors of the ingredients). They also tend to not use enough Marsala wine. However, I used a little too much this time (3/4 bottle for 5 portions) but this crowd that I was serving preferred the heavier version of this dish and we were drinking a full-bodied super Tuscan red wine so the wine fit the dish.

Therefore this dish came out darker in color at the end than it would have been with less Marsala. If serving a white wine to accompany the dish then maybe go a little lighter on the Marsala (1/2 bottle/5 people) or do so simply if you prefer a lighter tasting dish. Simmer the sauce down over about 20 minutes partially covered over low-medium heat until thickened to the consistency of a balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.

If it takes too long to cook it isn’t a problem. Just enjoy the conversation and maybe another trip to the wine cellar is in order.

Serve in pasta dishes or large plates and be sure to have the best rustic casareccio type bread you can find because there is no dish better than Maiale Al Marsala for the scarpetta to clean the plate at the end.

Accompany this dish with a light salad and maybe baked rosemary potatoes. This rosemary potato dish is real easy. Sliced potatoes, garlic cloves, olive oil, sea salt and fresh rosemary in an olive oil wiped baking dish. Then bake at 385 deg F over 40 minutes or so ‘til browned, stirring twice while baking). Will add this entry at a later date.

Buon’ Appetito!