Chicken Marsala is a good example of one of those dishes that have gotten a bad rap from being mass produced in industrial kitchens. When prepared carefully what could be tastier than a tender chicken scallopini topped with sauteed mushrooms and Marsala wine? I take personal pleasure in resurrecting old school under appreciated dishes and bringing them back to life for others to enjoy. Cooking in a busy kitchen such as ours, allows us to do numerous things which, while not impossible for the home cook, can often be cumbersome and time consuming.
Following is an outline of how we do this dish and a few of our techniques. I was tempted to use the work “tricks”, but there are no real “tricks” in a good kitchen, just good solid cooking techniques built up over years working with and thinking about food and flavors.
We start with boneless chicken breasts which we slice and then gently pound out to tender pieces, about 5-6 oz each. Seasoned with our house mix of kosher salt, sea salt, and freshly ground white pepper we then dredge them lightly in flour and saute until golden and set aside. Next we saute the mushrooms, (a mix of cremini, shitake and oyster) with minced shallots and fresh thyme. We then deglaze with a good Italian dry Marsala wine and let that reduce a bit before adding chicken stock. (Sauce stocks are dark, meaning we roast the bones and vegetables before simmering them giving a rich full flavor perfect for dishes like this, as opposed to light stocks made for soups.) We then return the sauteed chicken pieces briefly to the sauce where the flavors can mingle, finish cooking the chicken, and the bits of browned flour on the chicken help to thicken and enrich the sauce. Leaving the sauce simmering on the stove top we then platter the chicken and then add a bit of lemon juice to the sauce (to counteract the sweetness of the wine and add depth and complexity). Finally we finish by swirling in a bit of porcini butter which we make in bulk and freeze, adding smoothness and shine to the sauce along with the exotic aroma of the porcinis.
Chicken Marsala has consistently been our best selling plat du jour and a we think deserving of the title we have on our catering menus, “the best you’ve ever had”!