Picture-perfect Chicken Marsala
How does that saying go – one shutter closes another one opens? Okay, maybe it is door, but I think shutter works just as well. Especially when it is my 4-1/2 year old Sony camera biting the dust. Sure, it was only 4 megapixels and only had a 3X optical zoom, but overall, it served me well. Megapixels aren’t everything – I even had some darn fine 11″ x 17″ enlargements made from those pictures. But, over vacation it started acting sketchy and about a week ago or so, it started making horrible grinding noises and it stopped reading the memory card and the lens would no longer move in and out. The time had come!
And that right there is how I chose which camera I wanted – sweeeeet macro capability. Forty-year-olds the world over can only wish for such clear, detailed up-close focus! So, of course, I had to take pictures of whatever I made for dinner tonight and tonight’s selection was Chicken Marsala.
Nothing ground breaking here, but I think this version comes out quite nice and is easy enough for a weeknight dinner. The first thing I do is take a couple of boneless, skinless breasts, trim them of excess fat, cut each one into two relatively even pieces. Then, get ready to pound! Look at those sharp, shiny details on my meat tenderizer. Fab! Here’s a tip I learned from Alton Brown: when pounding meat, cover with plastic wrap and wet both the plastic and the mallet with a little water.
Observe the water droplets! Sweet. The water gives you enough slip to pound with a gliding motion – instead of straight down into the meat, you take sweeping strokes and the meat stretches out easily.
Of course, I had to try out the self-timer too. After sprinkling each piece of chicken with salt and pepper, I dusted them with a light coating of flour. A small handheld strainer works well for this.
Next, melt about a quarter of a stick of butter over medium-high heat. Look at that butter! You could just reach out and touch it! Careful, don’t burn yourself. I don’t like to use a non-stick pan for this because you really don’t get as much nice browning that way. I’d explain that whole Maillard reaction thingie, but alas, I am not a food scientist.
Don’t be afraid of the lack of Teflon. Chances are, you aren’t going to make the food stick by overcooking it. If anything, if the chicken is stuck to the pan, you haven’t cooked it long enough yet. Turns out when you get the old Maillard going, that nice brown crust acts as a self-release mechanism.
Your patience will reward you with the above – golden brown and lovely. After cooking the other side, I remove them to a jelly roll pan fitted with a cooling rack. Then I tuck the pan in a 250 degree oven to stay warm while I cook the next batch. Melt some more butter in the pan first before adding the other pieces.
Next, the fun part. Add a cup of Marsala wine, a cup of chicken broth or stock and bring to a boil. Then, using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the flavorful brown bits at the bottom of the pan. The original recipe calls for this mixture to be boiled down and reduced to reach a thicker consistency, but I am not a fan of this method. It takes too long, and you aren’t left with much sauce to go around. So, I used an old trick of my mother’s instead. I made a slurry with cold water and a little cornstarch and added that to the mixture.
It becomes glossy and thick quickly, so only add a little bit to start. This method also has an advantage over adding more flour – you can add it at the end of cooking time and not worry about a “raw” flour flavor.
I was a little low on Marsala and a little bit of boiling off did occur, so I ended up with a little over a cup of sauce. Your results may vary.
I serve the chicken along side some pasta, with the sauce over both. And yes, I stirred a little extra butter into the pasta too. The Pioneer Woman and Paula Deen would be so proud!
Ah, delicious food and a fun new toy – it was a good evening indeed. Now someone would like some of my attention back…