Chicken Marsala: Make It Tonight!

This marvelous chicken Marsala recipe is perfect for a family supper or casual entertaining.

Chicken Marsala: Make It Tonight!

I distinctly recall my first bite of chicken Marsala. It was at a local Italian restaurant where I spied it on the menu. No idea, really, of what it was but the name intrigued me. Our waiter gave us a brief description: thin-cut chicken breast sautéed with herbs, mushrooms, and Marsala wine. Marsala wine, he told us, is an Italian wine that is distinctive in flavor and aroma. And he was right. The aroma wafting from the dish as he lifted the lid was a bit savory and a bit sweet. Served on a bed of pasta with a side of steamed broccoli, chicken Marsala became my new favorite poultry dish.

The problem? We couldn’t afford to eat out enough to indulge my craving for chicken Marsala. I had to learn how to prepare this iconic chicken recipe in my home kitchen. And it wasn’t easy, even though I was not a stranger to preparing chicken. I knew how to cut a whole chicken into nice-looking pieces. Fried chicken, poached chicken, roast chicken. I could make them all. So what was it about chicken Marsala that had me stumped?

For starters, I wasn’t familiar with Marsala wine. Dry or sweet? Should I use button mushrooms or go with the more exotic varieties?

Researching recipes, I found common denominators in all of them: chicken, mushrooms, and Marsala wine. Some recipes contained chicken broth; others had none. I did find a couple I really liked, so I took ingredients from both and came up with the chicken Marsala recipe I’m sharing. I hope you like it as much as we do.

QUICK CHICKEN MARSALA

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 4 (4-oz.) skinless, boneless chicken cutlets
  • Seasoning salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 oz Cremini or button mushrooms, sliced fairly thick
  • 1 sprig (3” long) fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 to 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 3/4 to 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. Film a large skillet with oil over medium heat.
  2. Sprinkle chicken with seasoned salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook until done, about four minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm. (Do not wipe out pan).
  3. Add a little more oil to pan. Add mushrooms, thyme, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden.
  4. Sprinkle flour over mixture and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring as you go. Mixture will be lumpy but will smooth out after adding liquid.
  5. Add broth and wine. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until thickened, stirring as you go, about three minutes.
  6. Turn off heat, stir in butter, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Return chicken to pan, coat with mushroom mixture and serve.

    chicken-marsala
    Chicken Marsala

Tip:

Have a small shallot on hand? Add with the garlic for an extra dimension of flavor.

Chicken breast or cutlet: What’s the difference?

A chicken breast is the whole breast, while the cutlet is a thin slice of part of the breast.

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1 whole chicken breast with both sides attached

 

How to make a cutlet from a chicken breast

Start with breasts about eight ounces each, uniform in shape and no more than one inch thick.

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Split chicken breasts

Chill, then slice horizontally

If the chicken is too warm, you won’t be able to slice it easily, so slice it directly from the refrigerator. You can also put the breasts in the freezer about 15 minutes just to chill, not freeze, them.

Place one cold chicken breast on cutting board. Hold it in place with the palm of your hand. Starting at the thickest end, slice the breast in half horizontally, working away from you and toward the thinner end. You’ll have two even pieces of chicken breast or cutlets. If they are still too thick or thicker at one end, place between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound chicken to desired thickness.

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To make cutlet from the breast, make a horizontal slice, starting at thick end.
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By the time you cut halfway through, you’re on your way to making two cutlets out of one breast.
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Still too thick? Pound it out, starting at thicker end.

 

Tip: Stripping herbs off the stem

Hold the herb at the top, then just run your fingers down the stem, allowing the leaves to break off clean.

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Strip leaves from stem.

Mushrooms: A Primer

Shopping

  • Look for mushrooms with intact caps and stems.
  • Mushrooms will feel damp but not slimy or even very moist. Texture should be fairly firm and not spongy.
  • Do the sniff test: Mushrooms should have an earthy aroma. The stronger the smell, the more flavorful the mushroom. Avoid mushrooms that smell “off” or sour.

Storing

  • Mushrooms are high in moisture. I like to store mushrooms that were purchased loose in a baggie, with the top open a bit for circulation.
  • Packaged mushrooms store best in their original containers.

Cleaning

  • Clean mushrooms right before you plan to use them.
  • Whole mushrooms  can be simply wiped clean with a damp paper towel, or, if necessary, rinsed in cold water just prior to using. Do it quickly and they will absorb very little moisture, most of which will be found on the outside. Dry on paper towels or in a salad spinner immediately. Then proceed with recipe.
  • I don’t rinse cut mushrooms, since the exposed areas will absorb water. If you want to rinse them, do it super quick and dry immediately.

Marsala wine: is there a difference between sweet and dry?

Marsala takes its name from the region surrounding the Italian city of Marsala in Sicily. It’s a fortified wine, similar to sherry and port.

Dry Marsala is used in savory cooking, and sweet Marsala is used in desserts. I prefer dry but if all you have is sweet, go ahead and use it.

Have you made chicken Marsala? Share your favorite recipe — we’d love to have it!

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