“Marsala” bears the name of its hometown, a seaport on the western coast of Sicily, once mockingly thought of as a less than desireable wine making area by winemakers in neighboring regions. In the early 1800’s, a marketing campaign touted Marsala as a less expensive alternative to Madiera and sherry. Sales soared and it quickly made its way into Italian kitchens where it is believed dishes such as, Chicken Marsala were born.
There are conflicting schools of thought about the sweet vs dry version of Marsala. I lean toward the savory side so I prefer to cook with the dry but if you prefer a little sweeter edge then I would suggest the other. Remember, the best recipes are the ones that cater to your palate.
Before starting the combining of ingredients, you must first make chicken cutlets. This is easily done by taking a boneless chicken breast and cutting it crosswise against the grain into 2 or 3 pieces depending on the size of the breast. Remember the pieces will get larger when you pound them out. Next place the pieces between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using the flat smooth side of a meat pounder or mallet gently pound it out until the meat is even thickness, keeping in mind it does not have to be super thin just consistent. If you do not own a mallet or pounder do not despair as I have seen people use their fists or the bottom of a heavy skillet. Please feel free to improvise. Be careful not to make them too thin as they will break apart. Use your hand to feel across the meat to be sure they are the same thickness. If needed, pound the spots that feel high to even it out. Do not be afraid as this is a simple process that only takes a couple of minutes and can be applied to make cutlets for a variety of recipes such as chicken parmesan or veal scaloppine.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c all purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t lemon zest, grated or minced
2 plump cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1/4 c flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped (you may want to chop extra for garnish)
1/2 c dry white wine (pinot grigio is a good choice)
1/2 c dry Marsala ( or sweet if you prefer)
1/2 lb. fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced (also called baby portabellas)
- Prepare the chicken cutlets as directed above.
- Season the flour with salt and pepper and flour each cutlet on both sides, shaking off excess flour. Place on a platter.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken pieces and brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Brown in batches if necessary so as to not crowd the pan.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the lemon zest, garlic and parsley to the chicken cutlets. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the white wine, Marsala and sliced mushrooms. Stir gently to combine the mushrooms and chicken and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Remove from heat, serve garnished with a little chopped parsley and a steamed vegetable, salad or side of your choice.
I have featured this recipe in class and have been told it quickly became a family favorite. It is simple enough for everyday yet fancy enough for a dinner party. It will make you look like a rock star I promise.
Let me hear from you. I love success stories as this will surely be.