How To Make Classic Chicken Marsala at Home

How To Make Classic Chicken Marsala at Home

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Meghan Splawn
Mar 1, 2017
(Image credit: Laure Volo)

Nothing says fast and fancy quite like the Italian-American dish of chicken Marsala. A menu staple no matter the restaurant, this dish has seen its fair share of revisions. No matter the update, the pairing of golden, pan-fried chicken with a mushroom-studded Marsala wine sauce hasn't changed. We're throwing our hat in the ring with a version we just can't stop swooning over. With creamy sauce spiked with lots of garlic and, of course, the namesake Marsala wine, this take on chicken Marsala is next-level good.

And while it might sound like a dish that requires hours of cooking, it is actually a super-fast, one-pot chicken dinner that is perfect for weeknight cooking. You can serve the chicken and Marsala sauce over angel hair pasta (just like your favorite Italian restaurant), over cauliflower rice, or, my favorite, with a simple caesar salad.

(Image credit: Laure Volo)

How to Make Creamy Chicken Marsala at Home

Cooking creamy chicken Marsala at home relies on two classic cooking techniques: pounding the chicken into thin pieces for quick pan-frying, and making a pan sauce from the cooked mushrooms with the Marsala wine. Partnered together and paired with the right ingredients, creamy chicken Marsala at home is a stunningly simple supper staple.

A Step-by-Step Guide for Creamy Chicken Marsala at Home

  • Pound chicken breasts into thin, even pieces: Pounding the chicken breast into thin, even pieces is important because it makes it more tender and thinner, which means it cooks up faster and more evenly. There are many ways to flatten the chicken, but I prefer a gallon zip-top bag and a heavy rolling pin. You can also ask your butcher to do the pounding for you.
  • Coat the chicken in a little flour, and brown in oil and butter: The flour helps brown the chicken, but it later plays an important role in thickening the pan sauce. Browning the chicken in oil and butter gives the chicken tons of flavor and color.
  • Remove the chicken to a warm oven: Once the chicken is browned, move it to a warm oven. This continues to cook the chicken while you use the same pan to make a pan sauce.
  • Brown the mushrooms in same the pan: Don't clean the pan before adding in the mushrooms. They will give off a bit of liquid as they cook, so scrape the lovely browned bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir the mushrooms. Add the garlic at the end of cooking the mushrooms.
  • Make a pan sauce with the mushrooms and Marsala: Making the pan sauce is as easy as adding the Marsala wine and a bit of chicken broth to the pan and letting the excess flour from cooking the chicken thicken the sauce.
  • Finish the chicken in the sauce and serve: Once the pan sauce is simmering, return the chicken to the pan to meld the flavors. I love to temper the Marsala's sweetness with some chopped fresh parsley and a juicy squeeze of lemon over the chicken before serving.

Read more: 3 Faster Ways to Cook a Chicken Breast

(Image credit: Laure Volo)

The Best Way to Tenderize Chicken for Chicken Marsala

Beating the chicken into tender submission is essential to chicken Marsala. It ensures the chicken cooks up faster and more evenly and makes the chicken breasts more tender.

Flattening is a technique I used to bemoan as messy and bothersome — most recipes recommend sandwiching the breasts between flimsy sheets of plastic to contain the chicken's juices and protect the flattening implement. My plastic wrap would always slide away or, worse, tear into pieces and stick to the chicken. Then I learned a game-changing trick: Put the chicken inside a gallon zip-top bag (freezer-grade if you've got it) and pound the chicken in the bag! This small change makes flattening chicken easier and cleaner than the plastic-wrap method, and can also be used for coating the chicken in flour. There's a small amount of waste, but the cleanup is so much easier.

As for the mallet for flattening? I don't own one, so I use my French rolling pin. A heavy skillet, a can of tomatoes, or even an empty liquor bottle can be used in place of a mallet. If you do own a meat mallet, be sure to use the flat side for this maneuver.

More ideas for flattening your meat: 10 Ways to Flatten Meat Without a Mallet

(Image credit: Laure Volo)

All About Marsala

Marsala is a fortified wine — a combination of wine and a distilled spirit, typically brandy. Marsala is often compared to Madeira or sherry in flavor. Like vermouth (another fortified wine), Marsala comes in both sweet and dry varieties. For cooking, the difference is minimal so don't sweat if you have to substitute one for the other. A good rule of thumb is to use sweet Marsala for sweet dishes (tiramisu or sabayon are classic Marsala desserts), and dry Marsala for savory dishes.

The best pieces of advice for cooking with Marsala, as with any dish where you'll be cooking with the wine, is to buy a bottle you'd like to drink. You'll use one serving for this recipe and then have an open bottle to enjoy. Ask your favorite wine shop for suggestions, and avoid the grocery store — the Marsala found there tends to be a lower-quality bottle that's been sitting on the shelf.

How To Make Chicken Marsala at Home

Serves 4 to 6

What You Need

Ingredients
For the chicken:
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Marsala sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, as needed
1 pint (8 ounces) cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

Serving suggestions:
Cooked pasta, such as angel hair
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Lemon wedges

Equipment
Measuring cups and spoons
Gallon zip-top bag
Mallet or rolling pin, for pounding
Large skillet
Spatula

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven and season the flour: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 200°F. Mix the flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Pound the chicken thin: Working with 1 chicken breast at a time, place inside a gallon zip-top bag and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin to an even 1/4-inch thickness. Set the flattened chicken breast aside and repeat with remaining breasts.
  3. Dredge the chicken: Return the flattened breasts to the bag and add the flour mixture. Seal the bag and shake to coat.
  4. Brown the chicken: Heat the oil in a 12-inch straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the butter, followed by 2 of the chicken breasts. Fry until golden-brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the browned chicken to an ovenproof baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 2 chicken breasts.
  5. Keep the chicken warm: Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and place in the oven to keep warm.
  6. Brown the mushrooms: Keep the heat on medium-high. If there isn't grease left from frying the chicken, add up to 2 tablespoons more butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until their juices start to release, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the garlic: Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  8. Deglaze and reduce: Add the Marsala and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any browned pieces. Add the broth and simmer until reduced by half and starting to thicken, about 15 minutes.
  9. Add the cream and chicken: Add the cream and return the chicken to the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens and the chicken is well-coated, 3 to 5 minutes.
  10. Serve: Serve the chicken and Marsala sauce over cooked angel hair pasta if desired. Garnish with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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