Don’t be a chicken, it’s Marsala
Here’s a classic custom made for the weeknight dinner table: Chicken Marsala. Sure, this one has a pervasive presence on most Italian menus, but don’t let ubiquity instigate complacency. Simply put, it’s a classic for a reason, and this is a wonderful season for this sort if dish.
Marsala—a fortified wine blended with brandy—shares the name of the Italian city of its origin. There are countless variations, but like many dishes sharing the same technique profile, the key (not to mention all the fun) is tinkering with the sauce’s consistency. After dredging and pan-searing the chicken, deglaze with a bit of wine and after the vino has reduced, add your Marsala. Allow the latter to reduce to a syrupy consistency (close to nappé) before holding at a low simmer.
After adjusting the seasoning, you should have a uniquely sweet sauce to accompany the tender chicken. My family enjoys buttered egg noodles tossed with chopped fresh parsley, but—like the varieties of Marsala recipes—the permutations of pasta and starch (think mashed potatoes, friend) accompaniment combination are difficult to list. So even if you’ve grown weary of merely the name of the dish, I urge you: take charge—give due honor to a noble classic.
Clint Smith is an honors graduate of The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Le Cordon Bleu, and is currently a culinary arts instructor at Central Nine Career Center in Greenwood. To read more about techniques and recipes, visit cookingwithclint.com.
1. Pound chicken breasts to ¼″ thickness. Place flour in a wide container. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. In batches, place chicken in flour, lightly dredging (knock off excess). When olive is heated and rippling, add in dredged breasts; season with salt and pepper and cook to golden brown. Once golden on both sides reserve on a sheet pan (you may need to add the breasts to a 350°F oven to finish cooking).
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook egg noodles, drain, return to pot and coat with a small amount of melted butter.
3. Once chicken breasts have been cooked, add a small amount of oil to pan along with 1 tablespoon of flour; with a wooden spoon, stir to form a paste. Deglaze pan with red wine and reduce till nearly gone. Add thyme and bay leaf. Scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, pour in Marsala. Allow to reduce slightly before adding stock, and allow both liquids to reduce. When sauce has reached desire consistency, remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Coat chicken with Marsala sauce and serve with egg noodles.
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