Friday, December 28, 2007

Recipes: Chicken Marsala & Chocolate Orange Cake

I've cooked a few things in the past few weeks that I haven't made before, or that I haven't made in a long time. Two of them are going into my cooking repertoire to come out whenever the occasion calls. The first is Emeril Lagasse's Chicken Marsala. You wouldn't think that a Creole chef would have the best Marsala recipe, but he really does. My dad makes it often, and it is fantastic. It is also incredibly easy and tastes like a dream. I think all the butter helps. Not exactly the most healthy, but I crave it, and so does everyone else who has ever tasted it. My sister's friend Michelle has been whining for it all the way from Vancouver.

I made this using a package of mixed wild mushrooms that I got at the Dominion downstairs; it had some cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, and the mushroom flavour was pronounced and delicious. I used a can of soup to bash the heck out of the chicken, and it worked well, although the soup is a bit worse for the wear. I'll have to get a meat mallet before the next time that I make this. I must admit, I used a bottle of the Tosca cooking Marsala from the grocery store, and quite enjoyed the end result. It does have added salt, so I didn't season the dish much until the end to make sure that it wasn't too salty. I'll try this with proper, good quality, Marsala at some point, but as I'm on a budget, and I thought it tasted great with the cooking wine, it's not a priority. The Essence really makes a big difference in the flour. It gives the chicken a ton of flavour, and the recipe makes quite a lot, so you can keep it on hand to use in other things. A bit of it added to just about any recipe tastes great, and if you really want to go wild, you can shout "Bam!" every now and again for emphasis.

The second recipe is Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Orange Cake. Because Feast, the book from which the recipe comes, is a British cookbook, and therefore all ingredients are measured by weight, I had to attempt to find a North American conversion because I don't have a kitchen scale. When I Googled this cake, every person who wrote about it raved about it, and I knew that I had to try it. It is a ridiculously simple cake to make, and it really is phenomenal. The recipe that I'll give below is what I did when I made it, and the measure of the ingredients are the best approximation that I could get to the British measure. Here also is the link to a version of Nigella's recipe. I made it without the ganache, but I bet that it would be amazing with.

I made the cake for my mom's birthday, which happens to be on Christmas Day (bummer for her). I thought that it was appropriately festive, as it is very reminiscent both of clementines, which are so Christmassy, and of Terry's Chocolate Orange, which is equally so. I also liked that it was flourless, as no one wanted anything heavy after a long Christmas Day of snacking and eating. It turned out exactly as I hoped. It was moist but not overly dense, not too sweet, and gorgeously fragrant. It also, as Nigella mentions, keeps spookily well, and I enjoyed a piece just as good as the first on Boxing Day. It was a total success, and the whole family loved it. I'm next going to have to try the non-chocolate version of the cake, which uses just clementines. Yum.

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Orange Cake


  • two large navel oranges, or 3-4 clementines
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 200g ground almonds (The ones that I bought came in 100g packages, so I just bought two and didn't worry about measuring)
  • 1 cup plus one tablespoon caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup dutch cocoa
  • Put the oranges in a pot; cover with cold water, and boil for two hours or until they are very soft. I left the lid off and had to replenish the water twice, as it was getting low, so you may want to try this with the lid on.
  • If your oranges have seeds, cut them open and take the seeds out. Then, puree with a hand blender or in the food processor. Transfer to a bowl and put into the fridge until they are cold. Nigella states that she normally does the orange boiling the night before she makes the cake. I did it the same day, and they don't take too long to cool, so it's up to you. If you're having people over, boil the oranges the same day, as they make the house smell fantastic, and everyone will be both feeling cozy and drooling over what you're making before it's even done.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; butter a 20 cm springform pan and line with parchment paper. This is as easy as tracing the bottom of the tin to make the bottom circle, and then cutting a strip long enough to go around the inside. The butter makes the paper stick to the sides of the pan, which makes everything tidy and simple.
  • Mix the eggs into the oranges one by one, then mix in the sugar. While I normally ignore the call for caster sugar in most recipes, I heeded it in this one. There isn't a whole lot of liquid in this recipe for the sugar to dissolve in, so the finer sugar is necessary to make sure that the cake isn't gritty with crystals.
  • Add the almonds, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa; mix until combined. It is helpful to sieve the cocoa into the bowl, as it is quite clumpy straight out of the tin, and won't mix in properly. I don't have a sieve, so I just tried to get most of the clumps out with a fork, but sieving is better.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan; bake for 60 minutes or until a tester (skewer, chopstick, piece of dry spaghetti) comes out clean. Check after 45 minutes, and if the top is getting too dark, cover with tin foil.
  • Let cool completely before taking out of the tin. Decorate with strips of orange zest, or just leave plain. I put strips of zest on top, as in the picture above, and it did look beautiful. It would also be gorgeous with the ganache, as I mentioned, or with a dusting of icing sugar. Shards of orange flavoured chocolate would also be most appropriate.
  • Enjoy. This is a lovely cake, and I will definitely be making it again.