Who knew I (or more to the point, Paris) was so ahead of the curve? Last year, when I wrote about the preponderance of purple populating Paris, a few readers pointed out that the color orchid was named The Color of the Year by tastemakers, Pantone.
And recently, I made Marsala-baked pears, only to find out that, yup – this year, Marsala is the color of the year. So if you’re interested in finding out what the color of the year is going to be for next year, keep an eye on this blog.
The other night I invited some friends over for a very “family style” dinner. I’ve been utterly swamped so wanted to make something that I could pretty much prepare in advance, that I could put together at the last-minute, and didn’t involve too many dishes.
So I made spaghetti and meatballs, which I explained to my French guests was “Italian-American” fare, not really Italian, as you wouldn’t find Italians in Italy serving meatballs on top of plates of spaghetti. Due to the massive influx of Italians that immigrated in America, Italian-American cooking takes cues from both cultures. So pasta and meatballs it is.
I’m not sure if chicken Marsala is something you’d get in Italy, but it’s popular in America, and is even easier to make than spaghetti and meatballs. And only requires one pan. Even better, in this age of everyone wanting a dish that are fast, easy, and not too rich, chicken Marsala checks all those boxes.
(And I suppose it could be frozen, but it’s so easy, and so much better when freshly made, why would anyone want to?)
Pounding the chicken breasts into paillards, thin pieces of meat, helps them cook quickly and evenly. And there’s more surface to absorb the burnished Marsala glaze. Putting them in a plastic bag helps makes clean up easier.
Once you season the breasts, a quick dredging in flour is all that’s needed before frying them up in a big skillet. The finished dish has mushrooms, a bit of stock, and a good pour of Marsala. The final flourish is a sprinkling of chopped parsley. (Which I use a lot of, so perhaps “parsley” will be the color of the year next season.)
If you can’t get Marsala, substitute dry sherry. I serve this with wide noodles, but it’s also good with rice or orzo.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pound, 680g), cut in half crosswise
freshly ground black pepper
8 to 10 ounces (230-280g) button mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
3 tablespoons (total) olive oil
4 tablespoons (total) unsalted butter
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
about 1/3 cup (50g) flour
1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock or water 80ml
1 teaspoon corn starch
2/3 cup (160ml) Marsala wine preferably dry
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Put the chicken pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap, or in a sturdy zip-top freezer bag, and pound them with a rolling pin until they’re 1/2-inch, (1,5cm) thick. Put the pieces in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. In a wide skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over high heat until the butter starts to sizzle. Add the sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook – stirring occasionally – until the mushrooms are seared and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic to the mushrooms during the last-minute of cooking.
3. Scrape the mushrooms onto a plate and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel to remove any bits of garlic. (If not, those bits will burn when frying the chicken.)
4. To sauté the chicken, spread the flour onto a plate and dredge half of the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off most of the excess. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan. Add chicken pieces so they are in a single layer; don’t crowd them in the pan. (If you have a very large pan, you can sauté them all in one batch. But I use a 10-inch/23cm skillet, and do them in two batches.)
Sauté the breasts, turning them over midway during cooking, until they are browned on each side. (They don’t need to be completely cooked through at this point.) When browned, remove the chicken pieces to a separate plate and heat another 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan, and sauté the rest of the chicken.
5. While the chicken is cooking. Stir the corn starch into the stock or water until it’s completely dissolved, then mix it with the Marsala.
6. When the second batch of chicken is done and removed from the pan, pour about one-third of the Marsala mixture into the pan, scraping the pan with a wooden or silicone spatula to scrape up the browned bits, then add the rest of the Marsala mixture, as well as the mushrooms and chicken pieces.
7. Cook the chicken and mushrooms with the sauce over medium heat, turning the chicken pieces over occasionally, to make sure they’re well-basted in the sauce, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in another 1 tablespoons of butter, the balsamic vinegar, and chopped parsley. Taste the sauce and season with more salt, if necessary.
Serving: Chicken Marsala is best served with warm, with wide noodles or another pasta. Mashed potatoes would work well, too.