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Local and seasonal: Fresh ingredients are key to flavorful chicken marsala

December 26, 2009

I'm bringing this recipe to you this winter season at the request of a friend of mine in Sharpsburg. We often go over recipes and new ideas, and she asked about chicken marsala.

I worked on the recipe and decided that the most flavorful version I know was one that I learned at the Culinary Institute of America.

It's in the eighth edition of CIA's cookbook, "The Professional Chef," but I substituted chicken for veal in the CIA version.

I also wanted to go more "green" with my cookware and purchased upon a new anodized line from Cuisinart called GreenGourmet. They have a petroleum-free, ceramic-based, nonstick interior and an eco-friendly riveted handle made from 70 percent recycled stainless steel, and it's oven- and broiler-safe.

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They key to this recipe is making a great sauce and starting with fresh ingredients and purchasing your poultry locally if possible. You will need a pan that can handle even browning and searing to give you the best finished product, that's why I recommend the GreenGourmet line.

- Scott C. Anderson is associate food service director and chef with Shepherd University dining services.




Chicken marsala

10 7- to 8-ounce chicken breasts, with fat removed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces flour, optional (see cook's note)
2 fluid ounces clarified butter
1/2 ounce shallots minced
6 fluid ounces white wine (see cook's note)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
24 ounces Marsala sauce (recipe follows)
5 ounces butter, optional (see cook's note)

Pound each breast between sheets of layered plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Blot dry and season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, if desired.

Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking. Saute the chicken until it is cooked through at 165 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm while completing the sauce.

Skim the fat off the surface of remaining liquid if breasts were not trimmed and add the shallots and saute until they are translucent, about 1 minute.

Deglaze the pan with the wine; reduce until it is almost dry (au sec).

Add the Marsala sauce and reduce to a simmer, bringing the sauce up to temperature. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Swirl in the butter to finish the sauce, if desired.

Serve immediately by placing the cooked breasts in the sauce, or, if you prefer, serve the sauce on the side.

Cook's note: I tend to use the flour when I make this. The flour helps remove moisture from the chicken breast and assist in browning. Dry white wine is suggested. The butter adds a nice finishing touch.

Serves 10.

Marsala sauce

1 ounce minced shallots
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 fluid ounces dry, red wine
32 fluid ounces demi-glace (see cook's note)
8 fluid ounces Marsala wine
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper, as needed
4 ounces butter, diced

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the shallots, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and wine. Reduce by half.

Add the demi-glace and continue to simmer until the sauce has developed a good flavor and consistency. Add the Marsala and return to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a clean saucepan.

Finish the sauce by swirling in the butter. The sauce is ready to serve now, or it may be rapidly cooled and refrigerated for later use.

Makes 32 fluid ounces.

Cook's note: Knorr brand demi-glace is available in powdered form at selected area grocery stores.

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