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!
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.
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.
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 you're 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.
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.
Now pour in four tablespoons heavy cream and mix until integrated.
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).
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.
Turn off the heat and move the breasts to a serving tray, covering 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.}?>
Chicken Marsala (serves six)
|3 chicken breasts||brine||season||cook medium-high||remove||coat with sauce|
|4 oz. (120 g) button mushrooms||slice||cook 1 min.||reduce||reduce|
|1 cup sweet marsala wine|
|4 Tbs. heavy cream|