June 9, 2009

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala

I had just finished breaking down a chicken for a photo session when I realized that it was time to eat. Fortunately, I had some chicken on the cutting board. A quick trip to the pantry for inspiration yielded sweet Marsala wine and veal demiglace. Sometimes you need to test recipes a lot to get them right. Other times you can just throw something together and it's virtually perfect.

Chicken BreastsFirst, I prepped the chicken breasts. Bone-in and skin on is the juiciest way to prepare chicken breasts, but I'd deboned and removed the skin on the breasts for photos, so boneless, skinless chicken breasts seemed an excellent choice.  A quick rinse and pat dry with a paper towel, then salt and pepper (3 kinds) completed the prep.

I try never to start cooking without thinking things through and getting organized. While the chicken rested for a few minutes, I prepared my mise en place: slice some onion and crimini mushrooms; have a couple tablespoons of unsalted butter ready for the pan; pour a couple tablespoons of marsala into a prep bowl so I won't be pouring alcohol from a bottle into a hot pan; make sure to have a tablespoon or so of demiglace ready. Okay, I'm set and I have a plan.

When I'm doing classes and demos, I hear lots of questions about food sticking to the pan. I rarely have that problem, and here's why. First, I let the protein I'm cooking come to room temperature or as near to it as 30 minutes sitting out will do. Then I put some fat in the pan, usually olive oil, butter, or both. Then I preheat the pan--never preheat an empty pan, it can burn. The pan is ready when the oil shimmers or the butter foams. Only then do I put the protein into the pan.

Chicken Breasts CookingPatience is a virtue when cooking. It's really important to wait until the protein is ready before turning it. With most meats you'll be able to see that the color has changed. Turn it once and let it finish. The small bits that cling to the pan are what makes sauces so flavorful.

Sauteed MushroomsWhen the chicken is almost done, lift it out and set it aside, covered. If you cover it, residual heat will finish the cooking. Add butter and maybe a bit of olive oil to the pan and sauté the mushrooms and onions. Be sure to add salt and pepper.

Marsala SaucePush the mushrooms and onions to one side of the pan and deglaze with marsala. Be sure to keep your face back when pouring the wine into the hot pan just in case it ignites. Wine rarely ignites, but there's really no point in taking the risk. Stir in the demiglace, mix everything nicely, and taste. It's probably just fine, but taste it to make sure and adjust the seasoning, as necessary.

Plate the chicken, add a nice potato gratin and salad greens dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, then spoon the marsala sauce over the chicken. And that's how I paid the photographer. Thanks, Dad!

22 comments:

  1. I noticed that you use "Stainless Steel Skillet". Does it make a BIG difference between using iron, stainless steel and the non-stick alu pans when pan-frying meat? I bought two iron skillets and just cannot stand them any more. I use induction range, and the iron skillet just burned too fast.
    The tip on free from food-sticking-from-pan is very practical. The meat tastes also better if they are prepared at room temperature.

    Thank you, Mark, for dropping by.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I never use non-stick except for frying eggs because the surface inhibits formation of the fond.

    Stainless steel is great stuff, at least if it's high quality. I typically use All-Clad pans, because they have sandwiched aluminum between layers of stainless steel. For induction cooking I recommend All-Clad Brushed Stainless Professional, which is optimized for induction cooking. It's what I use at home. It's only available at Williams-Sonoma at this point. The pan in the photo is from Sur la Table. It's a nice tri-ply pan, and less expensive than All-Clad. It performs as well as All-Clad Stainless, but not as well as AC Brushed Stainless Pro, which has five layers and is much more stable under heat.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is one of my favorite dishes to make. Great photos! I agree about the Stainless Steel pans. I have a 10 piece All-Clad set, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You know, I've never kept Marsala around for some reason...wine, beer, sherry, vodka, rum...sure, but you've convinced me I should add Marsala to my stash. Those mushrooms look utterly delicious...you got me craving criminis!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I totally agree about the stainless pans I have been using the same Farberware stainless steel pans for almost 37 years. They are still great so haven't been able to justify new ones. :( I do pick up a piece here and there. Love the recipe. Need to add that to my chicken repertoire. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Marsala is really fairly inexpensive and it keeps well in the pantry. It makes a quick and easy sauce for any white meat.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks! Glad you like it.

    As far as pans go, get good ones, take care of them, and they'll last the rest of your life. I purchase pans one at a time myself, and only if I really need a new one. If you can afford a good set, though, you can save around 25-35%, depending on manufacturer.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've never tried Chicken Marsala at home. I've only had it in restaurants and have never particularly cared for it. Something tells me that if I try it at home I'm going to love it - especially based on that mouthwatering picture!!

    Thanks for the tips on sticking. I've had the sticking problem when cooking on stainless steel, and I'm now realizing it's because I never allowed my meat to come to room temperature. The more I learn about cooking in general the more that seems to be an important aspect of cooking meat. I've been trying to perfect my steak searing technique and that was one of my first mistakes I made - cold meat into hot pan = failure!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I just did a post on fortified wines, and concluded with a recipe for chicken marsala. I wish I was a bit slower, and I could have linked to yours. It looks outstanding.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Try it at home, tasting as you compose the sauce. Don't worry if it doesn't taste like what you remember, just make it taste good. Marsala is a very nice, sweet sauce base, and a good demiglace makes all the difference in the world. Personally, I use veal demiglace, but you should use whatever you prefer.

    If you've tried everything else and you still have sticking problems, you should try wiping the pan with distilled vinegar before using it. No matter how carefully you clean pans, they live in the kitchen, and that's an environment that includes fats in the air. The vinegar cuts any grease that may have settled on the pan from the atmosphere and provides a pristine cooking surface for you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks!

    Your post on fortified wines is outstanding. Tyler Florence's recipe is more traditional than what I did; I left out the chicken stock and prosciutto, and didn't dredge the chicken in flour. That's an excellent recipe in your post, and will produce a very nicely flavored Chicken Marsala.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gareth,
    This looks very delicious...Agreed that taking the food to room temp can really make a difference in the actual cooking...Are you married? If not, I am just now considering looking for an age appropriate man that can cook at least as well as I do, and you may even cook better than I do (though tests might have to be conducted!) Like your blog! Think it's very cool that your Dad took your photo, and it is a good one at that!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks! No, I'm no longer married. :)

    So, is that a cook-off challenge? If it is, wander over to Michael Ruhlman's blog and join the BLT Challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'll have to try this out some time soon!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Have fun. It's really easy to make things like this.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have no Stainless Steel. I do have cast iron and a commercial grade aluminum pan. But, I have always followed the first wok advice I received - Hot Wok, Cold oil, food won't stick. It works. Am I missing something?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've never heard that about woks, but it doesn't surprise me. A well-seasoned hot wok isn't going to be very sticky, no matter what the temperature of the oil going in. With a high-quality sauté or fry pan, however, putting cold oil into the pan lowers the temp of the pan, which leads to sticking.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love to make chicken caccitori with marsala wine, then don't know what to call it? The smells in the kitchen are the best with this!

    thanks for sharing recipe, it's so simple.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh yeah, that sounds really good.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Here's a video that explains why food doesn't stick in a properly heated stainless steel pan.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I FREQUENTLY COOK CHICKEN, AND WOULD LOVE TO TRY THIS RECEIPE!  IT SURE SOU NDS  YUM!

    ReplyDelete