Better Chicken Marsala

December 9, 2015

Of course we have all had Chicken Marsala in restaurants; it’s one of those ubiquitous staple of Italian-American cuisine. Today’s recipe is a good solid recipe, everything is well cooked and tasty. But overall, Chicken Marsala is a well-worn path to known flavors. This recipe executes everything well; especially the quick sear on the chicken before re-heating the cutlets in the sauce. Too often the flour coating turns gooey from too much time in the sauce. I can only give this recipe 3-1/2 stars; better than average (3-stars being average). In the end, there is no big-flavor payoff for the many steps.

Very solid Chicken Marsala

Very solid Chicken Marsala

Chris Kimball recommends spending a little extra for a moderately priced dry Marsala ($10 to $12 per bottle). You will use about two-thirds of the bottle. He also recommends serving this with some form of starch; potatoes, white rice, or buttered pasta.

Rating: 3-1/2 star.
Cost: $24.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:30PM. Dinner time 6 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it for this Thanksgiving is as follows:

2-1/4 cups dry Marsala wine
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1-oz dried porcini mushrooms
4 (6-to-8-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3-oz pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 6 pieces)
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

    1. Rinse porcini mushrooms, and add to medium-sized saucepan. Add 2 cups Marsala, and 4 teaspoons gelatin in with the porcini and set over high burner. When it comes up to a boil, reduce burner to medium-high and allow to vigorously simmer for 8 minutes until it has reduced by half.
    2. In the meantime, trim away any pockets of fat and cut each chicken breast in half crosswise. Next cut only the thick halves in half again, horizontally, creating all 3 cutlets of approximately the same thickness. Put cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound so that they are an even 1/2″ thick. Put chicken in bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
    3. After the Marsala has reduced by half strain through a fine-mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press down and extract as much liquid as possible; throwing away the spent porcini.
    4. Empty the Marsala back into the saucepan, adding 2 cups chicken broth, and bring up to a boil. Lower burner to medium-high and allow to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until it has reduced to 1-1/2 cups. Set liquid aside.
    5. While the liquid is reducing is Step 4, Add 1/2 cup flour to a pie plate and dredge one piece of chicken at a time if the flour. Gently shake to remove an excess flour. Set chicken onto a wire rack that is set over a sheet pan.
    6. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a 12″-regular skillet. Pre-heat over medium-high burner until it begins to smoke. Add 6 pieces of chicken to skillet, and reduce burner to medium. Cook the first side for 2 to 4 minutes until it turns golden brown. Flip chicken and continue cooking for 2 to 4 minutes until the second side turns golden brown.  Remove cooked chicken to the wire rack.
    7. Repeat Step 6 with the remaining 6 pieces of chicken and another 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
    8. While the chicken cooks cut pancetta into 1/2″-pieces. Slice the crimini mushrooms thinly, and prepare shallot and garlic.
    9. Reduce burner to medium-low and add diced pancetta. Cook for about 4 minutes until brown and crisp; stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom to loosen and brown bits for the bottom of the skillet.
    10. Add crimini slices into skillet with pancetta, increasing burner to medium-high. Cook for about 8 minutes mushrooms begin to brown; stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet.
    11. Use a slotted spoon to remove mushrooms and pancetta to a clean bowl.
    12. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and minced shallot to skillet; cook for 1 minute until softened. Add tomato paste and minced garlic; cook for just 30 seconds.
    13. Begin to add your components back to the skillet. Add the reduced Marsala, 1/4-cup of Marsala from the bottle, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano. Bring up to a simmer, then add the chicken back to the sauce and allow to reheat for about 3 minutes; flipping halfway through to ensure both sides are hot.
    14. Remove cutlets to serving platter.Remove pan from burner and whisk in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-tablespoon-sized-pieces) and 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley. Add parsley and cremini mushroom mixture. Stir until mixed and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

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