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Versatile chicken answers to many a dinner idea

Whether prepared for a down-home supper or for an uptown dinner at eight, chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) can be dressed to suit any theme or occasion. Appreciated by a wide variety of culinary cultures and traditions, it has easily gained wide popularity throughout the world. Most chicken today is produced in America, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Japan, China, and Mexico.

Little time and effort needed for making delicious and aromatic Chicken Marsala
Public Health Cookbook by the Seattle & King County Department of Public Health

Chickens likely originated in the area of today's Thailand and then taken to China, India, western Asia, and down toward Africa. The early colonists to America brought their chickens with them from Europe.

It was in the 1800's that effective refrigeration methods started to develop which in turn allowed for greater poultry production. After WWII, popularity of chicken at dinner time soared and continues to be one of our favorite main dishes.

Nutritional Analysis and risks

Chicken contains first-class protein and is a good source of niacin, selenium, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, and phosphorous. Since chicken is also a rich source of arginine, which is an amino acid required for the replication of Herpes Simplex Virus, people prone to outbreaks of herpes should avoid chicken.

Chicken also contains purines which indicates that individuals with gout should avoid chicken or at least limit its consumption; and chicken contains oxalates so anyone suffering from kidney stones should limit his or her intake of chicken.

Be aware that chicken has been shown to be a factor in many food allergenic reactions, particularly in children.

Foodborne infections and other factors

Contamination with Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter bacteria are common causes of acute infections. To combat poor sanitation, and to promote faster growth, chickens are often given antibiotics. The injection of antibiotics in chickens is showing to create a whole new set of problems. For one thing, bacteria is becoming resistant and thus people who eat the treated chicken are becoming sick with resistant bacteria. However, FDA cautions in interpretation of antimicrobial resistance data.

Preparation

Chicken should be rinsed thoroughly under cool water before preparing. When cooking, make sure chicken registers on a thermometer 170-175° when inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.

Impress with the Italian classic, Chicken Marsala.

Chicken Marsala is made from chicken cutlets and Marsala wine. Marsala wine is the best known Italian dessert wine, available in rich varieties of dry, semisweet, or sweet. It is made from the grape juice syrup of aromatic white wines and from dried grapes fermented with brandy, and it is aged in casks for at least two years. The finest varieties are difficult to find.

Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) are pounded thin, coated in flour, sautéed in oil, and removed from the pan. The sauce is then made in the same pan using onions or shallots, mushrooms, herbs, wine, and butter. Interesting adaptions can be made.

Try the following recipe, which is romantically designed to serve two.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin with flat side of meat mallet
  • 1/8C flour
  • 1/4C olive oil, Extra Virgin
  • 1C sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2C Marsala wine, sweet
  • 2T butter
  • 1/2C chicken broth
  • 1/4t dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Coat both sides of chicken with flour, salt, pepper, and oregano, shaking off excess, and place in pan when oil is hot.
  2. Sauté chicken, turning once. When lightly browned on both sides, remove from pan and place chicken on warm plate. Drain most of the oil and quickly add mushrooms.
  3. Next, sauté mushrooms briefly and add the Marsala. Using a wooden spoon, remove any bits of residue on sides of pan.
  4. Add butter and chicken broth. Cook a few minutes until the liquid has reduced to about half and then put chicken breasts back in pan to continue cooking. When heated through and cooked thoroughly, place breasts onto serving plates and pour sauce over them.

Add parsley, and serve with a pasta dish.