Chicken Marsala. Whether you call it old school, a culinary cliché or your favorite dish, you’ve most likely tried this Italian-American dish featuring chicken, mushrooms and sweet Marsala wine. It’s a classic for a reason.
It’s been on my plate recently as it was requested for a client demonstration event I’m doing tomorrow night. My client is celebrating her husband’s birthday and his all-time favorite dish is…you guessed it…Chicken Marsala.
While it’s not sexy or cutting-edge, I’m still looking forward to preparing it, because it’s a great example of a pan sauce. Learn to execute chicken marsala well and you and your trusty skillet can go feed the world.
One of my favorite classes to teach is a pan sauce class. I always have my students prepare three different pan sauce recipes using different proteins. I go over the basic steps and then talk them through preparing the first dish. For the second dish, I leave them with the recipe and step back while they tackle it on their own. For the third dish, regardless of whether they are cooking scallops or filet mignon, I take away their recipe and tell them to make a pan sauce. After an initial look of panic, they get to work. They follow the basic pan sauce formula and every time they end up with a beautiful and tasty dish.
I’d like to pat myself on the back and credit my teaching for their success, but pan sauces are easy and one just needs a little experience to execute them well. Which is why today I’m leaving you with the basic steps and a familiar recipe to take away any jitters. Wish you could see me execute the dish in person? Click here for my demonstration on this week’s Charlotte Today show. And then get to work – dinner is waiting.
Steps for making a pan-sauce:
Have all the ingredients ready to go. Good entrees with delicious pan sauces cook quickly and wait for no one. Having everything you need ready in advance will allow you to focus on heat control during the cooking process.
Heat the skillet THEN add the oil. Exposing oil to heat for a long time can cause it to change its chemical composition and give your food an off-taste. For the best taste, add your oil only after your skillet is hot. Sautéing requires a minimum of oil – you just want it to lightly glaze the bottom of your skillet.
Add the protein to the skillet presentation side down. Put the best side of your protein down first. You’ll always get better browning on the first side exposed to heat so make it count by using the side that you’ll want to be seen by your guest.
Don’t play with your food. It’s tempting to adjust your protein and peek at it to see how it’s doing. For great browning, let the protein cook undisturbed. You should only touch the protein to flip it over.
Let your protein rest. Once you’ve cooked your protein, set it aside to let it rest. If your sauce is going to take more than a few minutes to cook, you might want to cover your protein with aluminum foil to keep it warm.
Add your aromatics (onions, garlic, mushrooms, etc). Once the protein has been removed from the skillet, you are ready to add aromatics. Check your pan to see if you need to add a little more oil and then add in whatever aromatics you are using.
Deglaze. It shouldn’t take long to sauté your aromatics. Once they are soft, add the liquid that you will be using to deglaze to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the good stuff (also known as “fond”) that is stuck to the bottom of the pan. For best results, the liquid that you add should be at room temperature. Remember to NEVER pour alcohol directly from the bottle into the skillet. To be safe, always remove your skillet from the heat before adding alcohol to prevent fires.
Build your sauce. Add another layer of flavor by adding more of the liquid used during the deglazing process or another liquid to your skillet. Reduce everything to your desired consistency remembering that pan sauces are thinner than other sauces.
Finishing touches. A sprinkling of fresh herbs is a great way to finish a pan sauce. For a more decadent approach, channel the French and monter au beurre (whisk a little cold butter into the final dish). Happy eating!
Chicken Marsala- Printer Friendly Recipe
2 (6-ounce) chicken breasts, cut into 4 cutlets
¼ cup all purpose flour
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
1 large shallot
2 small garlic cloves
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced
1/2 cup sweet Marsala
3/4 cup less sodium beef broth
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
Special equipment: plastic wrap, meat pounder
Place the cutlets on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Use the meat pounder to flatten them until they are 1/3-inch thick.
Season the flour with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken cutlets in the flour and shake to remove any excess. Set aside.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil. Carefully add the cutlets to the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove the cutlets from the skillet and set aside.
Add more olive oil if needed and stir in the minced shallot and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes or until just soft. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour in the Marsala. Reduce the Marsala by half and then add the beef broth. Reduce to the desired thickness. Adjust the seasonings if needed.
Return the chicken cutlets to the pan and turn to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately with generous spoonfuls of the sauce and plenty of mushrooms. Garnish with the minced parsley.