Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms

This is based on a recipe from Ciao Italia, a long time PBS cooking show hosted by Mary Ann Esposito who, I believe, is based in New Hampshire. Her accent and style so reminds me of the women all around Eastern New England back when I lived in the Boston area in the 70's. Until I started watching Lidia Bastianich, Mary Ann was my favorite Italian TV chef and I learned a lot about Italian cuisine from watching her show.
This is an old time favorite, very easy to make well, and delicious as a weeknight meal. Back in the day when a recipe like this called for chicken breasts, I would just buy the breasts alone at the store but these days I'm much more likely to buy the whole bird, cut it up into the parts, and freeze what I'm not using that day. Much more economical especially considering I'd much rather pay for the best chicken and it's not all that cheap. The original recipe recommended flouring the chicken as it calls for the breasts to be skinned. As I'm not too concerned about avoiding poultry skin, I leave it on but flour anyway for the texture.

The original recipe also called only for button mushrooms but I prefer mixing various kinds to broaden the flavor of the dish with whatever wild mushrooms are available such as chanterelles, hedgehogs, morels, crimini, etc. One of the big keys I've found in cooking mushrooms is to cook them in a good amount of fat (butter, oil), at a high heat, and to remove them only once they've given off their liquids which usually takes about 5-8 minutes. Once you've done this a few times you get to recognize the signs pretty well.

Breasts floured and ready to cook

Mushrooms after cooking

A good dry Marsala wine (d'uh) of course helps though I suppose you could use any good dry red wine to fit the bill. As they always say, only cook with what you would like drinking.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound sliced assorted mushrooms (white, crimini, chanterelles, whatever)
kosher salt
fresh-cracked black pepper
2 boneless chicken breasts pounded thinly
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup dry Marsala wine
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they give off their liquid and are cooked through. Salt and pepper them to taste and transfer to a bowl.
Place each breast one at a time between waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound it with the smooth side of a mallet from the center out until it reaches a uniform thickness of about 1/8 inch. When both are thinned, put the flour into a bowl and season it with salt and pepper. Dip each breast into the flour to cover completely then tap it to allow any excess flour to fall off. Put aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter in the same skillet you used to cook the mushrooms. Over medium high heat, brown the cutlets on both sides then remove from the heat.
If the pan seems dry add a little more butter. Raise the heat to high and pour in the Marsala wine. Stir, scrapping up any bits in the pan and reduce the wine to 1/2 its volume. Stir in the lemon juice. 
Return the chicken and any collected juices to the pan along with the mushrooms to reheat.
When done, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

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