My inspiration for sharing my recipe for Chicken Marsala comes from having recently read Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Bet Me is a fun contemporary romance that I recently reviewed here on my blog and for which I hosted an online book club discussion. [See previous post]. The couple in the story--Min and Cal, go to a little-known Italian restaurant called Emilio's for their first date. The date proves to be disastrous, but the Chicken Marsala is phenomenal. Despite trying to avoid each other, Min and Cal keep crossing paths and can't help but fall in love. It's quite an adventure, and throughout it all, everyone is eating a lot of Chicken Marsala.
I guess we'll never know if my recipe could top Emilio's, but mine seems to go over quite well in my house, so maybe it will in yours as well.
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon paprika, optional
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion
1 garlic clove, minced
8 oz. baby Bella mushrooms [or white button]
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good quality Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
Trim fat from chicken breasts. Horizontally slice the thick portion of the chicken breast so that the pieces are of uniform thickness.
Lay pieces of chicken breast between sheets of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or heavy can [such as a can of tomatoes] to pound chicken. Start at middle of the piece of chicken and work your way out to the edge of the meat.
In a shallow dish, combine flour, paprika [if using], salt and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in flour, gently shaking off excess.
Melt about 1/3 of the tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet or a well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Add about 1/3 of the chicken pieces into the hot skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes, turning half way through. Remove chicken to a platter and keep warm.
Add another 1/3 of the tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and brown several more pieces of chicken, cooking until lightly browned.
Repeat with last remaining butter and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and remaining chicken, watching carefully not to burn chicken, especially towards the end when some flour and chicken bits may be stuck to bottom of skillet. You may want to lower the heat a little bit if it looks like the bits are getting too dark.
When all of the chicken is cooked, add another 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet along with the onion, garlic and mushrooms.
Give the onion, garlic and mushrooms a few good tosses to combine and to evenly coat with olive oil, then let it cook undisturbed for 1-2 minutes. If you keep tossing the mushrooms, you end up steaming them instead of sauteing them and they will never brown. You get the most flavor from the mushrooms by letting them brown and caramelize so don't over handle them. After the first minute or two, gently stir. You want to see that the mushrooms have browned, like in the photo below:
If they have browned, stir a few more times and then let everything sit again. If they have not browned, let everything sit another 1-2 minutes before stirring.
Once the onions and mushrooms have browned nicely, season with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Add the Marsala wine and cook for 30 seconds, stirring the browned bits from the bottom of the pan until they have dissolved into the wine. Then stir in the broth and soy sauce.
NOTE(s):Buy a decent quality Marsala wine from the liquor store. It's not that expensive and will definitely make a difference in the taste of this dish. Do not use the cooking wines you can buy at the supermarket that is sold alongside the vinegar. Those cooking wines will ruin the flavor and quality of the entire dish. Buy real Marsala wine for real Chicken Marsala. I'm sure Emilio would say the same. ;)
I'm sure he wouldn't say the same about adding soy sauce to Chicken Marsala. I know it sounds unconventional, but soy sauce is often my secret ingredient for adding depth of flavor to a dish that salt just can't achieve.
Return the chicken to the skillet, lower the heat to low and cook, covered, for about 10-15 minutes.
I always serve Chicken Marsala over pasta such as fettuccine, but you can also keep it simple and serve with a nice loaf of Italian bread alongside the chicken. Sauteed spinach and a tossed salad would make nice accompaniments as well.
I hope you give both Bet Me and my recipe for Chicken Marsala a try. Please let me know if you do!