Good marsala wine is obviously a key ingredient in Chicken Marsala, but what else is needed to make a successful version of this sweet and savory Sicilian classic? Not much else except some patience and attentiveness. Mushrooms are a necessity, but I left out the onions, shallots, chicken stock, tomatoes, flour, capers, lemon, and whatever else all the internet recipes tell you to put into the dish. I wanted to create an easy, no mess version of Chicken Marsala that captured the fundamental essence of the dish and here it is.
Chicken Marsala, like any dish that's been around for generations, comes in a variety of forms with all sorts of family secrets or preferences. I've prepared the easiest, good tasting recipe that I've been able to come up with for this dish and still be called a great Chicken Marsala. As in all the recipes that I post on this website, additional ingredients can be added to your liking. Not only that, I encourage you to do your own experimenting as well!
A lot of recipes call for thin sliced chicken breast meat. The breasts should be washed, patted dry, and lightly floured. The idea is that the thin cuts will not require much cooking time and the flour would protect the breast from drying out while it's cooking. This is true, but there's always potential for making a mess when you flour the chicken. I also found that flouring the chicken wasn't as easy as it looked. If you use too much, then the flour falls off in chunks as you cook it. Use too little and it seems like it was pointless to flour the chicken in the first place. My solution? Brine the chicken breasts, skip the flour.
Brining is the act of soaking ingredients (in our case, chicken) in water with salt (and sometimes sugar). This soak causes salt to penetrate into the chicken meat and at the same time pulls more water in. The meat becomes more plump and flavorful. Brining a chicken breast prior to cooking makes it much easier to produce a tender, juicy breast. I brined my chicken breasts in a plastic bag with 4 cups water with 4 Tbs. table salt for one hour. After an hour, remove the breasts and rinse off the breasts (or they will be too salty).
I brought together the three brined chicken breasts (about 1/2 lb. or 250 g each), 1 cup sweet marsala wine, and 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms. I did not cut my breasts into thin pieces (to show that it's not necessary), but some people prefer a thinner cut. If you're one of them, go ahead and cut your breasts in half and poudn them down with a meat mallet. The sweet marsala wine should be of drinkable quality. I cut the mushrooms into thick cuts, but quartering, halving, or even leaving the mushrooms whole work well. [IMG]
Salt and pepper the breasts. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high and pan fry the breasts for a few minutes. The exact time depends on the thickeness of the breasts. The breast will change color while it's cooking from pink to white. When the bottom half has changed color, flip the breasts over and cook the raw side of the breast. [IMG]
Here's where extra attentiveness is important. The objective is to cook the breast until it has just fully cooked. In the Grilled Skinless Chicken Breast article, I advocated learning to tell is chicken breast is done by touch. Well, here's where it comes in handy. If you know how chicken breast feels (level of springiness, hardness, etc.) then use this method to check one when the breasts are fully cooked. I once asked the chef at my local Buca di Beppo's how he made his Chicken Marsala so tender, and he responded mysteriously, "You have to watch the chicken. No, really watch it. You will know when it is done." Well, I'm saying you need to watch and press on it once in a while. If your not familiar with the touch technique, then simply cut a hole into the thickest part of a breast and see what color liquid flows out. If the liquid has tints of color and is opaque, then keep cooking the chicken. If the liquid is clear (like oily water), then the chicken breast is done.
Remove the fully cooked chicken to a plate and throw the mushrooms into the pan. Don't worry if there are burnt bits of chicken still in the pan because these will help flavor the sauce. If there are any larger chunks of chicken, remove them because they will overcook and become stringy and tough. Spread the mushrooms into a single layer and allow them to cook for a minute. [IMG]
Pour the cup of sweet Marsala wine into the pan a this point and allow it to reduce for a couple minutes. We want it to thicken slightly, but not so much that it coats the back of a spoon. [IMG]
Now pour in four tablespoons heavy cream and mix until integrated. [IMG]
Stir occassionally until this mixture reduces to the point where it will coat the back of a spoon or leave a trail at the bottom of the pan when scraped (see picture below). [IMG]
At this point, reintroduce the breasts and roll them around in the sauce until they have been coated with sauce and have warmed up again. [IMG]
Turn off the heat and move the breasts to a serving tray, sovering with mushrooms and sauce. The breast meat should be perfectly tender and juicy while the sauce clings to any available surface. Tina described the chicken as amazingly soft and the mushrooms as "little bombs of flavor". At first she was skeptical about chicken marsala, but after tasting this, she was convinced of how delicious this dish can be. [IMG]
This is Alex. While we are on the subject of typos, "If your not familiar with the touch technique,..." in paragraph 7 should read, "If you're not familiar with the touch technique,..."
Anyway, I thought I would share my chicken Marsala recipe. I consider this to be one of my specialties, and coming from Italian immigrant-rich NY, I've had a lot of good and bad chicken Marsala.
I will definitely try out your method as it seems less labor intensive than mine. Since I do not have the benefit of the format you use, I'll just list it out in a typical chronological order that I would do things in:
1) hammer the chicken until it is flat (I do not slice to make it thin, but beat on the thing until it is less than a 1/4" thick, or about 1/3 of its original thickness)
2) coat the chicken in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper.
3) fry the chicken pieces in a mixture of butter and oil until the chicken is HALF cooked. remove chicken.
4)saute the mushrooms until half done in the oil/butter mixture.
5) add the chicken back in (both chicken and mushrooms should be half done). Add in Marsala wine until it covers most of the chicken. cover the pan, and allow the chicken to simmer in there until it is JUST done.
The one problem with my recipe (besides being labor intensive) is that the chicken's flavor is highly dependent on the quality of the Marsala wine, since that is the only thing it is simmering in. I usually taste the Marsala wine beforehand to judge how I believe the chicken will turn out. I then add potentially heavy cream, spices, or sometimes even beer (I know, sounds sacreligious, but sometimes the Marsala wine is that bad).
Disclaimer: I do not list ingredient quantities not because I am cruel or detail deficient, but rather because I just want to give an idea of the process I use, as it differs substantially from Michael's approach.
I have to say a mother of two, and soccer mom to boot,I am always looking for dinner that is different, healthy, taste good and not going to take 4 hours to make like all my other italian dishes, those don't normally go hand in hand, this one did. Thank you it was a big hit! Meg Ralphiano
I'm going to try this dish soon. i was wondering about side-dishes though. what shall i serve with it? In the photo i see what looks like fettuccini noodles in teh background. is that good on the side? anything on them or just plain? thanks.
HELP-I NEED TO MAKE CHICKEN MARSALA FOR ABOUT 100 PEOPLE-I NEED TO MAKE THE CHICKEN THE NIGHT BEFORE THAN I FIGURED I WOULD JUST COOK THE MARSALA AND MUSHROOMS THE NEXT DAY AND PUT IN THE OVEN FOR A BIT. CAN I COOK THE CHICKEN JUST PART WAY THE NIGHT BEFORE AND THAN FINISH COOKING IT IN THE OVEN THE NEXT DAY-I DON'T WANT TO OVER COOK THE CHICKEN... PLEASE PLEASE I NEED HELP.