My Adaptation of the New Basics Cookbook Chicken Marsala Recipe
Chicken Marsala is one of my all time favorite recipes. There is something about the sweetness of the Marsala wine that gives this dish a wonderful flavor. The cooking technique for making chicken Marsala is similar to chicken piccata, pan fry the chicken breasts, deglaze the pan with wine and adding the other ingredients to make a pan sauce.
In the past, I have called the cooking technique “saute” but I now understand that saute has more to do with cooking smaller, identically sized ingredients. Think diced carrots or cubed chicken or beef. You’ll hear many cooks say to “saute a chicken breast” but now I think of it as pan fry a chicken breast because of the size of the breast. You really aren’t going to have the breasts “jump” in the pan.
You may be more familiar with Veal Marsala, another classic Italian dish almost exactly the same as this Chicken Marsala except it is made with veal. I happen to enjoy both, but veal is much more expensive sometimes harder to find. And then there are some who just don’t like eating veal so this is a good option.
How I Found This Recipe
Years ago I was looking to duplicate a recipe for chicken piccata. I enjoyed at a small restaurant when I lived in New York City. I knew it was basically a flour, lemon and butter sauce but I wanted to find a recipe to refresh my memory before jumping into it. After looking through a bunch of my favorite Italian cookbooks for chicken or veal piccata recipes without success, I finally gave up and found a recipe for “veal” piccata in my New Basics Cookbook.
When I looked in my refrigerator, I realized we didn’t have any lemons and this is not an easy dish to make without a lemon and I didn’t feel like running to the grocery store. Right next to the veal picatta recipe was one for veal Marsala. I had all the ingredients to make the Marsala version so I adapted it to prepare with chicken breasts.
To learn more about the technique of pan frying, and how it compares to saute and stir fry. One of the key ingredients in this recipe is demi glace, basically a brown stock that is reduced down to a syrupy consistency. It takes hours to make it at home but lucky for us, there are some good commercial products on the market that are really good. I share them with you below.
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups mushrooms
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Marsala wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 sprigs fresh flat-leafed parsley
How To Prepare At Home
Flatten the chicken breasts between two pieces of waxed paper with a meat pounder until thin. If you're not a gadget person like myself and don't own every kitchen utensil available including a meat pounder, try using the edge of a can of soup or a small sauté pan.
It's important that you pound the breasts to an equal thickness. This is so they cook evenly and one breast doesn't cook faster then another.
Slice the mushrooms into thin slices and finely chop the parsley.
Add the butter to a fry pan / skillet, melt over medium heat, add the mushrooms and cook until lightly browned. It's hard to tell you exactly how long this will take since all stovetops are not alike. Depending on whether you are using a gas or electric or what make or model, will make a difference. On my household gas stove, it takes 8 - 12 minutes, but on my mom's electric stove, it takes longer. Remove the mushrooms and reserve.
Add the oil to the pan and up the heat a little. I don't advise cooking at high until you get comfortable cooking at high heat. It means working a little faster and watching a little closer but you want the pan to be hot to pan fry the breasts properly. To learn more about the technique of pan frying, and how it compares to Saute and Stir Fry.
While the oil is heating up, dredge each chicken breast in flour. What I like to do is put the flour in a shallow soup bowl or on a plate and using one hand, dip each breast into the flour and add to the pan.
Sauté the breasts for approximately 1-2 minute each side. Remember the chicken breasts will cook faster because they are thinner. If you are preparing more than four breasts, it's important not to crowd the pan so they fry and do not steam. Better to cook in batches than trying to cook them all at once.
Remove the breasts from the pan, reserve on a platter, and cover with tin foil to keep warm.
Add the Marsala wine to the pan to deglaze, scraping the small bits of chicken stuck to the pan. (Remember, Marsala is a wine and contains alcohol so be careful when adding it to a hot pan. Better to remove the pan from the heat when deglazing any pan with wine.) Simmer until slightly reduced, approximately 2 minutes, again depending on your stovetop.
Add the reserved mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and parsley.
Plate the chicken breasts along with your sides (I served this with rice) and top with sauce.
The next night I made Chicken Piccata with the three leftover chicken breasts that were already cooked. I'm sure the experts would say the Chicken Piccata loses something because the breasts were already cooked, but to tell you the truth, I didn't notice that much difference. What I remember was how delicious the piccata sauce was.
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