What Is Chicken Marsala?

Chicken Marsala is an Italian chicken and mushroom dish that's as simple to make as it is flavorful. The main flavoring component is Marsala wine, an aged and fortified Italian wine often served for dessert or before dinner. The wine lends a sweet, almost smoky flavor to the dish that pairs well with the earthy mushrooms and gives new life to the familiar chicken breast.

Besides the wine, the dish doesn't require a whole lot in the way of ingredients. The drill is familiar for anyone who has read about the "sauté, glaze, and serve" method. While this technique is often used for French food, the method works well for some Italian dishes as well, such as this one.

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Chicken breasts are pounded out until thin and then are lightly coated with flour. They are browned in butter on both sides and set aside so that the mushrooms can brown in the pan next. The wine is then added and brought to a boil, brown bits at the bottom are scraped up, and a bit of chicken stock is added for body and to balance out the flavor of the wine. The sauce is reduced to a glaze and rounded out at the end with just enough butter to keep the sauce from becoming too sweet. Add the chicken back in and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

What are some things to keep in mind when making this old favorite? It's best to pat the chicken breasts dry before dredging them in flour, so that the coating doesn't get soggy or form clumps. Make sure the pan is nice and hot before adding the chicken breasts so that they brown properly, and resist the urge to move them around while cooking or the flavorful crust won't form. And, most importantly, never crowd the pan. This will most likely yield steamed chicken breasts instead of light and crisp ones. The same thing goes for the mushrooms! And always keep a bit of extra chicken stock on hand — if the sauce becomes too thick, it's easily fixed with a bit of chicken stock. If the sauce is too thin and you're getting impatient, make a mixture of equal parts butter and flour (not much — what the French call a beurre manié) and mix it in. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. (Photo courtesy of flickr/darktek13)

Well, there it is. The dish, a reason to make it, and some pointers on how to do it right and what to do if something goes wrong. So, what are you waiting for?