Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chicken Marsala

This is probably the fourth time I have made Chicken Marsala and I have to say that my first attempt was a minor disaster.   The problem was the sauce which was cooked separately and poured onto the chicken before serving.  For the sauce I relied only on Marsala wine with a little bit of heavy cream to thicken and slightly stifle the flavor of the wine, but it didn't work.  The Marsala wine overwhelmed the dish.

On my second attempt, I learned that some recipes for Chicken Marsala called for using chicken broth with the wine. Adding the broth definitely helped to dull the flavor of the Marsala - but it dulled it too much and the combination of broth and Marsala required too much heavy cream to try and thicken the sauce.

On the third attempt, I did a little more research and found that some recipes for Chicken Marsala used a combination of Marsala wine and Sherry.  This seemed very intriguing.  So this time I pan fried the chicken and rather than removing it from the pan to cook the sauce separately, I took the advice of one recipe which simply left the chicken in the dish to simmer with the broth, Marsala, and Sherry mixture.  I also omitted the use of heavy cream which was no longer needed to stifle the flavor of the Marsala wine since the broth and Sherry already did the trick. The only trouble was the sauce didn't thicken as much as I would like, but this was easily solved by including a roux.   This has now become the standard procedure for how I cook Chicken Marsala.

The only addition I might try in the future is to marinate the chicken in Marsala wine for about a half-hour to hour before cooking to try and inject even more flavor into the meat.  I'll have to see how that works next time.

Chicken Marsala is a classic Italian dish which gets its name from the distinct sweet flavor of Marsala wine used as the base to the sauce. The recipe is fairly simple. Using chicken breast the meat is first flattened to a quarter inch thick.  This allows the meat to be cooked at a fairly short time and allows the flavor of the sauce to easily penetrate the meat.  The chicken is then dredged in a spiced flour mixture and pan fried in butter and olive oil.  It is then simmered in a sauce made from a combination of Marsala wine, Chicken Broth and Sherry.  The result is a nice succulent sweet flavored meat dish that can be served over rice or pasta with a simple green salad on the side.

Chicken Marsala

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes


2 Halves Chicken Breast
1 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Oregano
1 Teaspoon Ground Pepper
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
2 Cups Sliced Mushrooms
1 1/2 Cups Chicken Broth
1 1/2 Cups Marsala Wine
1/2 Cup Sherry

Step1: Flattening the Chicken -- Place the chicken on a chopping board.  Add a lining of plastic wrap over the chicken (this is used to prevent splatter).  Using the flat side of a kitchen mallet or meat pounder, hammer each half of the chicken breast to flatten meat to about a quarter inch thick.

Food Lunatic Tip: if you do not own a kitchen mallet or meat pounder, a large hammer could also do the trick. The other option is to slice the chicken breasts into quarter inch thick slices, however this will result in a less succulent finished product.

Step 2: Spicing the Flour -- In a large plate add the flour, oregano, ground pepper and sea salt.  Mix the ingredients together until well combined. Set aside.

Step 3: Simmering the Chicken -- Heat a large skillet with lid to medium high and melt the butter and add the olive until shimmering.  Dredge each half of the chicken breasts in the flour mixture until well coated on all sides.  Add the chicken to the pan to brown the meat - fry the first side for about four minutes.  After the first flip of the meat, throw in the mushrooms to the pan and cook for an additional four minutes.   Add the chicken broth, Marsala Wine and sherry to the pan and increase the heat to bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer and cook for an additional 5 minutes to reduce the sauce.  Then cover the dish and cook at medium heat for 10 more minutes and it will be ready to be served.

Tip: If you like your sauce a little thicker you can create a roux by combining a 1/2 teaspoon of flour with an 1/8 cup of water.  Mix the items together until it creates a cloudy white liquid mixture.   Pour into the pan and stirred it into the sauce before covering the dish to cook for 10 minutes.  As the water evaporates the flour will thicken the sauce evenly.

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