Chicken Champions

David Lebovitz’s Chicken Marsala Totally Nails the Sauce

updated Mar 5, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Design: The Kitchn

David Lebovitz is a Chez Panisse alum, lauded pasty chef, cookbook author, and OG food blogger — seriously, he’s been blogging for more than 20 years! He’s also the author of my all-time favorite ice cream cookbook. Needless to say, I’ve made a lot of his sweet treats, but I’d actually never cooked a savory recipe from him.

That all changed a few weeks ago, when I whipped up his chicken marsala recipe as part of our celebrity recipe showdown series. The recipe was recommended by multiple members of Kitchn’s Meal Plan Club Facebook Group, who claimed it was the best they’d ever tasted.

After reading through the recipe, which has a slightly unusual ingredient list and technique, I was eager to get started. Here’s what happened what I got into the kitchen.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Design: The Kitchn

How To Make David Lebovitz’s Chicken Marsala

You’ll begin by slicing the boneless chicken breasts in half crosswise, then pounding them thin and seasoning with salt and pepper. Next, brown sliced button mushrooms in a mix of unsalted butter and olive oil over high heat, adding the garlic during the last minute of cooking. Transfer the mixture to a plate.

You’ll dredge the chicken in flour, sear the breasts, working in batches, until lightly browned on both sides (but not yet cooked through), and add them to the plate with the mushrooms.

While the chicken is cooking, you’ll whisk together chicken stock, cornstarch, and Marsala wine for the sauce. Deglaze the pan with the sauce, then return the chicken and mushrooms to the skillet and cook for a few minutes longer to finish cooking the chicken and thicken the sauce. At the very end, remove the pan from the heat and stir in a pat of butter and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

My Honest Review of David Lebovitz’s Chicken Marsala

I’ll admit I had some reservations before I cooked this recipe. Lebovitz calls for basic button mushrooms (I thought surely a more exciting variety like cremini, shiitake, or oyster would make a better Marsala). And unlike most chicken Marsala recipes, which call for cooking the chicken before the mushrooms, Lebovitz’s recipe works in the opposite order.

My reservations were promptly squashed after just a couple bites. This is by far the most delicious chicken Marsala I’ve ever cooked, and very likely the best I’ve ever tasted. And it’s all about the sauce. It has some sweetness from the wine, but thanks to a splash of balsamic vinegar and an extra pat of butter added at the end of cooking, it’s bright and punchy, yet savory and rich. The sauce is also thickened with a tiny bit of cornstarch, so it’s extra glossy and expertly coats the thin slices of chicken and mushrooms.

Lebovitz includes instructions to season the major components of the dish with salt and pepper at several points during cooking, which results in an extremely well-seasoned dish. And while cremini, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms might have added a little more flavor, this recipe isn’t missing out on anything by using button mushrooms.

As for Lebovitz’s instructions to cook the mushrooms before the chicken, it’s actually super smart. The recipe calls for cooking both the mushrooms and chicken over a high flame, and after the chicken was cooked, there was a light film of flour at the bottom of the skillet that continued to darken by the minute. It certainly would have burned with an extra few minutes tacked on to cook the mushrooms afterwards.

Credit: Kelli Foster

If You’re Making David Lebovitz’s Chicken Marsala, a Few Tips

1. You can get away with a 10-inch skillet, but a 12-inch is ideal. The recipe calls for a wide skillet and doesn’t specify size. I used a 10-inch skillet, which works just fine, but if you have one, a 12-inch skillet is a better choice.

2. Plan to cook the chicken 2 to 3 minutes per side. You’re instructed to sear the chicken until browned on each side. This will take about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

3. You might need an additional tablespoon of oil and butter. If you’re working with especially large pieces of chicken, you may actually need to cook them in three batches — and that’s totally okay. Just be sure to add an additional tablespoon of each olive oil and butter to the skillet before adding the final batch of chicken. Otherwise the pan will be too dry, the chicken won’t brown as well, and the browned bits on the bottom may start to burn. 

4. Start with pre-sliced mushrooms. This will save you time and extra prep work.

Rating: 10/10

Have you ever made David Lebovitz’s chicken Marsala? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Pearl Jones; Design: The Kitchn