Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five Star Chicken Marsala, Baby

Date night in the kitchen. There are more and more places offering a "Couples Cook" or "Date Night" cooking classes in the Houston area. I've been tempted to sign Chuck and I up for one but they always seem to be sold out way in advance. As of now, there are none available for a couple of months. Plus they run from $110-$200 per couple. Yikes! You do get some awesome dinners, a fun experience, and some recipe packs to bring home. For now, date night has to be at home.

Chuck bought The New Best Recipe cookbook (by the folks at America's Test Kitchens) for me a couple of weeks ago. Since every single recipe I've made from there has been exceptional, it has lovingly been upgraded to the title of The Bible. As in, the cooking Bible. But when I say, "I'm going to look for something in the Bible," everyone here knows what I'm talking about. I'm slowly becoming a Pastafarian.

One night I handed "The Bible" to Chuck and told him to choose anything in there for me to cook. He thumbed through looking at various things to tempt his tastebuds and settled on chicken marsala as soon as he saw it. It's a favorite when we go out to eat. But then he surprised by asking, "Can I help you make it?" Hell-to-the-yeah you can help me make it!

We got together in the kitchen and prepped all of the ingredients then proceeded to make the best chicken marsala I've ever had in my life. It was better than anything I've had in a restaurant. I'd even go so far as to say that it was one of the best dishes that's ever come out of my kitchen. It had mushrooms but even my mushroom-hating kids ate them up. I'm not a mushroom fan but I devoured them.

These are so rich and flavorful that Charlie and I were able to split a chicken breast and it was satisfying.

Served with a Greek salad and angel hair pasta for a terrific dinner. The Greek salad benefitted from some fresh mint and parsley tossed in along with kalamata olives, cucumber and feta cheese. The mint and parsley gave it a nice, complex flavor.

The chicken is only browned in a skillet then transferred to a 200 degree oven where it finishes cooking. That method means you don't have to pound out the breasts before you cook them. Because no one likes to have their breasts pounded. ;-)

Try this. Seriously. It's really not difficult and the results are fantastic. Pancetta is easily found in most grocery store delis. It's an Italian bacon that has been cured but not smoked. The mushrooms can easily be sliced in an egg slicer for even pieces. My grocery store did not have sweet Marsala and I didn't feel like going all the way to the liquor store so I bought cooking Marsala. It tasted terrible in the bottle when I sampled it. I added just a little bit of sugar to it to try to give it a sweet Marsala flavor. Next time I'm getting the real stuff.
Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts trimmed of excess fat
1 cup flour
salt and black pepper
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2.5 ounces (about 3 slices) pancetta, cut in 1" by 1/8" pieces
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups, stems removed)
1-2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala
1 1/2 Tbs. juice from a large lemon
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a large heatproof dinner plate on the rack, and heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Working with one cutlet at a time, coat boath sides with flour. Lift the breast by the tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12" heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the cutlets and cook on the second side until golden brown and the meat feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to the heated plate and return the plate to the oven.

Return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta. Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom, until the liquid released by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancettta and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off the heat, add the Marsala. Return the pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the lemon juice and any accumulated juiced from the chicken. Whisk in the butter, 1 Tbs. at a time, until incorporated. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

The best.


  1. Nummers - I love chicken marsala! And I use an egg slicer for mushrooms all the time - great time-saver!

    You and Chuck are so cute, I just can't stand it! We need to get together one of these days - really enjoyed our last visit with y'all and it's been too long!

  2. Yep - love that cookbook and everything out of CooksIllustrated and Country Cook - you have to try their Italian Sunday gravy - or what we call $27 gravy because of all the meat in it, but hands down the best meat marinara my husband and I have ever had.

    I found you from Shelley's blog - I like to think of her as my best friend I've never met :D

  3. The only time I've ever had Chicken Marsala was at weddings. Let me tell you, they looked nothing like that! And I bet yours tasted 10X better, too. This is worth trying on our own, and since I can tell the hubs there's bacon in it, I'll get no wrinkly-nose from him.

  4. I hate mushrooms. But my brother made a Chicken Marsala (leaving off the mushrooms for me) and it was delish!!


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