Dave’s Chicken Marsala

For years I have been on a quest for the perfect Marsala sauce.  Often it is my test dish to evaluate any new Italian restaurant – although admittedly I go to precious few of those anymore because frankly I like my own stuff better.  Anyway, to borrow from the old U2 song, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.  Once about 7 or 8 years ago I thought I had it, or at least close enough, but I was never able to recreate that sauce afterward – like a dumb [bleep] I was so enraptured with my own handiwork that I didn’t think to write the recipe down at the time.  So, perfection continues to elude me, although tonight’s dish is a worthwhile stab at it.

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What follows is my own concoction, born of years of searching and experimenting. No perfect by any stretch but I think you’ll like it, and it’s pretty simple to make. Here are your ingredients to make a lovely dinner for two:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, pounded to ½” thickness
  • Kosher salt
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • 2 tbsp. whole butter, divided
  • 1 cup cremini or portabella mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup beef stock
  • ¾ cup Marsala wine
  • Chiffonade of fresh basil for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium flame. While the oil is heating up, season the chicken breasts with kosher salt and dredge them in flour – this will keep them moist when you pan fry them. Place the floured breasts in the skillet, top side down, and cook to a light golden brown, which should take about 5 minutes, maybe a tad more.  Turn them and cook for a similar amount of time on the other side, then remove them to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.

Next add 1 tbsp. of the butter and saute the mushrooms until they are well browned and most of the water in them has released and cooked off. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about two minutes, then add the garlic and continue sautéing about 30 more seconds. Deglaze the skillet with the beef stock, using a wooden spoon to scrape all the fond (the brown, tasty crunchy bits) off the bottom – that’s pure flavor that is not to be wasted. Next add the Marsala and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Turn off the heat and finish the sauce by swirling in the other 1 tbsp. of butter.  Return the chicken to the skillet to reheat.

With that, you’re done and ready to plate it up.  Make sure you pour the sauce and shrooms over the top, and garnish with the fresh basil.  We served with a side of capellini pasta and oven-roasted asparagus. The result was delicious and we munched it down with a big happy grin on our faces. This may not be the perfect Marsala sauce (if such a mythical creature actually exists), but I think you’ll be pleased nonetheless. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!

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