When was the last time you looked in the back of your liquor cabinet? Last week, when I pushed past the bottles of Bulleit bourbon and Gran Centenario tequila, I found some surprises including banana liqueur, black pepper-infused vodka, and an unopened bottle of Marsala wine. I pushed my previous dinner plans aside and resolved to put that bottle to use in a simple homemade chicken Marsala.
Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala: Watch the Video
Good Ingredients, Simple Techniques
Chicken Marsala conjures images of the dimly lit neighborhood Italian joint, with candle wax drippings on chianti bottles, forest green carpet, and servers in long white aprons. It's one of those dishes that feels too classic and special — meant only for a night out — but I'm here to tell you that not only is it easy to make at home, but you'll also be using the slow cooker do the heavy lifting.
Like many Italian-American standards, traditionally prepared chicken Marsala relies on a choosing good-quality ingredients and employing a few simple techniques. Marsala is an Italian fortified wine, meaning that wine and a distilled spirit, such as brandy, are combined. The chicken slowly cooks in the Marsala, so skip the dusty grocery store-quality Marsala and pick up a bottle you'd be happy to drink from a glass at your local liquor store.
Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness for this slow cooker take on this Italian favorite, but skip the flour dredge and pan-fry that you'll find in most standard recipes. Not only does it get you to the dinner table with less fuss, but skipping the flour shower also means you can make this chicken Marsala gluten-free if you choose. The chicken is simply seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with garlic and mushrooms before adding the Marsala.
Before you can pour your second glass of wine, the chicken will be done and all you have to do is whisk the cooking liquid with butter, cornstarch, heavy cream, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve over pasta or salad greens and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon and you'll resolve to never let another bottle of Marsala languish in the cupboard again.
Making the Cook Time Work for You
Because of its relatively short cook time, this is a great recipe to put together on the weekend — especially when you have time to prep dinner but need to get a few things done around the house. It's especially useful if you have people coming over. Put this recipe together, set it to low, and in the two hours it takes to cook, you can tidy up or drop something off at the cleaners.
Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3 to 4 breasts)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cooked pasta, such as angel hair
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Place 1 chicken breast inside a gallon zip-top bag and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin to an even 1/2-inch thickness. Set aside and repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper, then arrange chicken breasts in a single layer in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker — there may be some overlap and that's okay. Scatter the garlic and mushrooms over the chicken, then pour in the Marsala.
Cover and cook on the LOW setting for 2 to 3 hours, or the HIGH setting for 1 to 2 hours. The chicken is ready when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F.
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Pour the sauce, including the garlic and mushrooms, into a large frying pan, add the butter, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk the water and cornstarch together in a small bowl until the cornstarch is dissolved, then pour into the simmering sauce. Cook until sauce thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.
Whisk in the heavy cream and lemon juice. Return the chicken to the sauce, turning to coat. Serve the chicken and marsala sauce over cooked pasta or salad greens, and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon wedges if desired.
- Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.