Thursday, June 14, 2007

chicken marsala

Last night we did one of our favorite, easy, wonderful treats: chicken marsala. We evolved this recipe from our original forays with the always fabulous veal scallopine, either marsala, or piccata. Evolved because veal was a lot more expensive than chicken!

We want to share our version of this oft-used recipe. But before we do, we have to confess that we googled "chicken marsala" and discovered a torrent of entries. Amazing. One site is just "". Italian Chef, All recipes, and of course the Food Network all have versions. One site "" yielded hundreds (I think, I quit counting) recipes all for chicken marsala.

Undaunted, here is ours:

  • four chicken breasts. About a pound. (See note).

  • three tablespoons butter (to start)

  • three tablespoons vegetable oil

  • about a half cup of flour

  • salt and pepper

This gets us started. Spread the flour on some waxed paper. Add salt and pepper. Put the oil and butter in a saute pan (equipped with a lid to use eventually). Medium high heat. When oil is hot, roll the chicken breasts in the flour, shake off excess flour, and put in the saute pan (which should be large enough to hold the chicken breasts without overlapping). Brown the chicken breasts, usually about three minutes a side, and then cover and turn the heat to medium. This is because we find the chicken breasts cook more evenly by cooking under cover rather than getting the breasts done just by continually sauteeing.

Watch the chicken breasts closely. Ideal is to take them off just before they are completely done -- a tiny touch of pink. Worst case is to overdo the chicken: tough and tasteless. When done remove the chicken breasts to a plate and keep warm in the oven.

Note: we do not pound the chicken breasts. We like them in their full glory. And let's face it, we always seem to get different sizes and shapes, depending. Sometimes this requires cutting the chicken breasts in half. Sometimes we just remove the "extra" pieces on the side. Whatever works. Ideally we get free-range, organic chicken breasts, skinned, deboned and halved, quite thick, and then we go from there.

Now the sauce:

  • four tablespoons butter

  • one-quarter cup white wine

  • one-half cup marsala

  • one-quarter cup chicken stock

  • couple tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

  • one teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (optional)

  • one-half cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)

First: drain the saute pan of the fat accumulated. This is key. It is not necessary to drain all the fat and certainly not the wonderful brown bits and stickings from the sauteeeing. But get rid of most of the fat. Otherwise you get a fatty sauce!

Turn the heat to high. When hot add the butter. As soon as it starts to melt, add the white wine which should steam and immediately de-glaze. Add the marsala. Add a half teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Add a tablespoon chopped parsely. Stir. You don't want the sauce to get too thick, but you don't want soup either. Probably add the chicken broth to create enough broth.

When the sauce is just about the right consistency, bring back the chicken breasts, and add them, and their juices, to the saute pan. Turn them over a couple of times to get them well coated.

If the sauce is too runny, thicken by adding a little more butter.

Serve, putting the chicken breasts on the plate, spoon the sauce over, add a touch of parsley for garnish.

On the oregano option, just add it after you add the marsala.

On mushrooms: we ordinarily do not add mushrooms to the dish, but they can be delightful. As soon as you add the marsala, add the sliced mushrooms. They should be done just right as the sauce thickens. (some recipes call for a cup or two or three of mushrooms, which we think is overkill, and takes away from the great taste of the marsala.)

Remember: watch the chicken carefully (checking by cutting into it with a sharp knife). Do not overcook. And get rid of all the fats in the saute pan before starting the sauce.

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