My Recipes|Luke Chavez
March 10, 2022
At the age of 29 I moved to New York City on a whim. Not to sound dramatic, but the year that followed was truly the best of times and the absolute worst of times. On nights when I felt completely broken and exhausted from the rat race, I would take myself out for a dinner date with a book. Just a few blocks from my apartment was a cozy, hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant that quickly became a favorite. With flickering candles, cheap carafes of house chianti, and a menu featuring unpretentious Italian American classics, dinner there was like a delicious hug. Among their specialties was Chicken Marsala, tender chicken cutlets pan fried then simmered in a rich and slightly sweet wine sauce with mushrooms. This week, with the whole world feeling out of sorts, I found myself craving this comforting dish from my brief time living in lower Manhattan.
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thin cut, 4-5 escalopes (see notes)
¼ cup flour
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 small shallot, chopped, about 3 tablespoons
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
⅔ cup chicken stock
⅔ cup dry Marsala wine (see notes)
⅔ cup heavy cream
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Place flour in a shallow dish. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.
Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet, over medium-high heat. When the butter is fully melted and foam has dispersed, add chicken to pan. You should hear a nice sizzle. Cook chicken, turning once, until both sides are golden brown, and meat is just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate, tent with foil, and set aside to keep warm.
Reduce heat on pan to medium and melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and the shallots, then cook until the mushrooms begin to brown nicely, about 5 to 6 minutes. Next add the garlic and oregano with a pinch of salt, and continue to cook an additional minute or 2, until fragrant. Pour in the marsala and the stock, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow the alcohol to cook off for a couple of minutes. Then add the cream, stirring quickly to incorporate. Return to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened, reduced by about half, and darkened in color. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if needed.
Return the browned chicken to the pan, along with any accumulated juices from plate, arranging in a single layer and spooning sauce over the top of each piece. Allow sauce to gently simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes, allowing chicken to heat through and the sauce to thicken a little more. When in doubt, check the chicken for doneness by slicing into the thickest part. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Escalopes are thin fillets of boneless meat, usually chicken or veal, that are pounded thin for quick cooking. You can often find chicken breasts pre-sliced in grocery stores, or you can ask the butcher to slice them. Or purchase two breasts (about ¾ pound each), then slice them in half horizontally by butterflying with a sharp knife. Once breasts are sliced in half, use a meat mallet to gently pound the fillets out into an even ¼-inch thickness.
Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily. Fortification is the process of adding distilled spirits to wine which preserves and enhances the flavor after fermentation has finished. You can find dry Marsala in wine and spirit shops, or larger grocery stores. Sometimes in grocery stores you can find small bottles of cheaper "cooking" Marsala wine in the same section as cooking vinegars. If you can not find Marsala, you can substitute with other fortified wines such as Madeira, dry sherry, or port. On top of being lovely to cook with, these wines are lovely as a dessert pour after a large meal.
This creamy and flavorful entrée is lovely served with buttered noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. This week, I served it with buttery smashed new potatoes, and a crisp salad with a light vinaigrette. Some Louis Prima on the stereo and a glass of chianti completed this Little Italy fantasy. Mangia! Enjoy.