The classic chicken marsala is made easy with a magical pan sauce that transforms into the most delicious velvety sauce in less than 30 minutes. It makes a totally gourmet but simple dish for weeknights or a special occasion.
Marsala is a fortified wine that is great for both cooking and drinking. Don’t mistake marsala cooking wine or imitation marsala you find on your grocer’s shelf for the real thing. Genuine marsala, be it sweet or dry, has an intoxicating aroma, and a sweetness with traces of dried fruit, caramel and nuts. Marsala began its journey to America when an English trader discovered a locally fermented wine in Sicily. This wine was aged and processed almost like the method used to make sherry in Spain. The trader saw marsala’s potential and tweaked the original recipe with grape must to extend the shelf life. Marsala made its way to America and imitators began to make less expensive versions.
Italian-American restaurants created recipes early in the 1900s that included tiramisu, made using a soaking syrup with marsala. Then veal scaloppini hit the culinary hot list and marsala was used to deglaze the pan. Much less expensive to make at home, Americans created chicken marsala and added mushrooms. In 1973, Marcella Hazan wrote The Classic Italian Cookbook. Recipes like Veal Scaloppini and Zabaglione featured marsala. She updated her cookbook in 1992 with Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which became the go-to Italian cooking guide for Americans. Like my recipe, Marcella leaves out the mushrooms and uses dry marsala wine.
The “flurry” is the mixture of all the sauce ingredients simply whisked together. The secret to the sauce is the flour coating the chicken; this thickens the sauce while it simmers. Fresh thyme heightens the flavor, and the lemon brightens the sauce. My twist is soy sauce, which adds extra umami flavor and deepens all the flavors. If you like mushrooms, add sliced baby bella mushrooms with the onion and garlic. Serve this easy, but truly gourmet, dish with risotto or pasta. Broccolini with garlic would be a perfect complement, too. Make sure there is hot crusty bread on the table to soak up every bit of sauce. And more cheese, too!
Lemony Chicken Marsala
8 to 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic-pepper seasoning blend
2 teaspoons lemon zest
For the flurry sauce:
1 cup dry marsala wine
1 ½ cups low-salt chicken broth or stock
¼ cup low-salt soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ cup finely minced sweet onions or shallots
6 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with butcher twine
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, plus more to your taste
For the topping:
¼ cup finely minced fresh Italian parsley
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more or less as you like
Trim the chicken thighs of excess fat. In a low-sided bowl, whisk together the flour, seasoned salt, garlic-pepper blend and lemon zest. Lightly dredge the chicken thighs in the flour mixture and set aside on a platter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the marsala, chicken broth, soy sauce and lemon juice, then set aside.
In a 12-inch high-sided skillet, on medium-high heat, add ¼ cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons butter. Do not let the butter burn. Add the floured chicken thighs and lightly brown on both sides. Remove to a platter as they will continue cooking later in the sauce.
Continuing on medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, minced garlic, minced onions, tied fresh thyme sprigs and 1 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper. Saute just until wilted. Do not brown.
Stir the flurry sauce into the pan and bring to a simmer. Add back the browned chicken (with the juices) into the simmering sauce in an even layer. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and stir into the mixture. The sauce will be thickened and silky. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thyme sprigs. To plate, serve with the pan sauce over the chicken, a sprinkle of fresh Italian parsley and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Makes about 4 to 6 servings.
Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski
Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Contact her at LorraineStevenski@gmail.com.