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How to Prepare Chicken Marsala
How to Prepare Chicken Marsala
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Chicken Marsala may be a simple dish of chicken, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, and Marsala wine, but its history and recipe variations are anything but simple. Even though the dish originated in Sicily, Chicken Marsala is rarely served in any restaurant in Italy. In the U.S. however, Chicken Marsala is a mainstay of most American Italian eateries.

Despite its origins, Chicken Marsala has become a genuine American-Italian dish with complexities as rich as the many different flavor profiles of Marsala wine.

01

Italians Did Not Create Chicken Marsala

British immigrants invent Chicken Marsala RistoArnaudov / Getty Images

Odd as it may seem, the recipe known today as Chicken Marsala was not created by Sicilians. Instead, food historians trace the dish to the kitchens of English immigrants living in Sicily in the 19th century. The English were most likely trying to season the bland chicken with Marsala, the wine of Sicily.

02

At Least the Technique Is Italian

Young smiling chef in white uniform and gray hat decorate ready dish with green rucola herbs in interior of modern restaurant kitchen.

The English immigrants might be credited with creating Chicken Marsala, but the cooking method used is purely Italian.

Chicken Marsala uses a variation of a classic Italian cooking technique known as scaloppini. Scaloppini is the favored Italian method of breading with flour a thin slice of meat--such as chicken, pork, beef, and veal--and frying it in a pan before letting it simmer in a sauce for hours.

03

It's All In The Wine

Sicilian Marsala Wine in Barrels feellife / Getty Images

The ingredients of Chicken Marsala may vary, but there are two ingredients that have to remain for the dish to keep its name--chicken and Marsala wine.

Marsala wine is produced in the Italian city of Marsala in western Sicily. The wines can be sweet or dry, light or dark, and even red.

The basic Chicken Marsala recipe calls for a dry Marsala, but for those desiring a tangier taste, a sweeter variety of the wine can be used.

04

Garlic or Shallots? That is the Question.

Fresh Shallots MmeEmil / Getty Images

Most likely, those who first made Chicken Marsala used whichever of the two ingredients they had on hand. This is further proof the recipe was first created by English immigrants living in Sicily. No self-respecting Italian ever ran out of either garlic or shallots. These two ingredients are as necessary to an Italian cook as stripes are to a zebra. And, as with the zebra, to be without either is unthinkable.

05

Let's Get Cooking

Ingredients for Chicken Marsala Stanislav Ostranitsa / Getty Images

Classic Chicken Marsala Recipe Utensils needed:Medium-sized sautéing or frying pan

3 - 4 quart pot

Baking sheet

StrainerIngredients:2 - 3 tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

2 Cloves Garlic

1 Shallot

1 cup Mushrooms, Cremini preferred

¼ cup Parsley

2 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/3 cup Flour

6 oz. Spaghetti

2/3 cup Marsala Wine

2 tsp. Chicken Base

2 tbsp Butter

06

Prepping the Chicken

Meat mallet and chicken breast Andrii Atanov / Getty Images

The key here is to pound the chicken breast until it's about 1/4" thick. There are two methods to get the chicken breast thin enough.

The first method is by far the easiest. Just slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, and the resulting pieces should be the desired thickness.

The second method is more labor-intensive, but it does result in a more tender chicken. Place the breast between two sheets of wax paper or a plastic bag, and with the side of a meat mallet or rolling pin, gently pound until it's 1/4 inch thick.

07

Cooking the Chicken

Pan frying breaded chicken breasts EMPPhotography / Getty Images

Coat the pan with one tablespoon of olive oil and a pat of butter for extra flavor.

Put flour in a plastic sandwich bag and add seasonings such as oregano, basil, and parsley. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, place it in the bag, and gently shake. Once coated, put the chicken breast in the pan and cook until brown on each side.

Once the breasts are browned, place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375° for about eight minutes or until chicken reaches 165°.

08

Now the Sauce

Chicken Marsala over spaghetti Stanislav Ostranitsa / Getty Images

In a pot of salted boiling water, add pasta. Cook according to directions and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

In the same pan used for the chicken, add the olive oil, garlic, shallots, and mushrooms. Cook the vegetables until brown.

Add Marsala wine, chicken base, and reserved water.

Stir occasionally until the sauce thickens and reduces, which takes about ten minutes. Take off heat and mix in a pat of butter.

Once everything is mixed, serve a serving of pasta in a bowl. Add a chicken breast and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Enjoy.

09

Some People Like It Creamy

Cream for Chicken Marsala Alter_photo / Getty Images

Some people prefer their Chicken Marsala sauce creamy and thick. To achieve that sauce, skip the butter and instead add 3/4 cup heavy cream, evaporated milk or half and half after the wine has been incorporated into the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens and its consistency is creamy. Sprinkle with parsley before spooning onto the pasta and chicken breast.

10

Extras and Sides

Chicken Marsala with green beans boblin / Getty Images

Some people like to add other ingredients to their Chicken Marsala such as prosciutto, pancetta, or even bacon. All of these options are excellent for those wanting a smokier flavor.

As a side with your Chicken Marsala, go green. Steamed or baked broccoli, asparagus, green beans, or spinach complement the wine sauce. Bake a loaf of crusty bread, and you've got a perfect meal.

Bon Appétit

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