When I think of favorite meals from my childhood, high on the list alongside Mom’s Minnestrone and Bacon and Egg Spaghetti is Marsala Chicken. Last week I cooked this dish for Mr. B for the first time and now I’m wondering what took me so long! The flavors are at the same time comforting and seductive. Combining Marsala wine with simple breaded chicken creates a dish characterized by satisfying sweetness and velvety textures. This dinner would be perfect to make for a date, guests, or even kids as it manages to be both elegant and approachable.
Traditionally my mother made this dish with pheasant and depending on my Dad’s success hunting, we could eat Marsala “chicken” a few times a month during hunting season. Oscar has yet to discover the difference between a pheasant and a robin, so our freezer is quite lacking in pheasant meat this year. I substituted boneless chicken thighs, which fill in nicely for pheasant if you aren’t inclined to hunt for your dinner! We enjoyed the chicken over a simple bed of capellini pasta- an excellent foil for the flavors of the dish.
Adapted from Northern Italian Cooking by Biba Caggiano
1.5 lbs chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup dry unflavored plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter plus 3 Tablespoons, divided
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups dry Marsala wine
Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Beat eggs with salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Spread crumb mixture on aluminum foil in a long line. Dip chicken breasts in beaten eggs, then coat with bread crumb mixture. Press mixture onto chicken with the palms of your hands. Let coated chicken stand 10 – 15 minutes.
While the chicken is resting, melt 3 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy skillet. When butter foams, add mushrooms and onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the onions are beginning to caramelize. Remove onions and mushrooms from pan and set aside.
Add remaining butter and oil to the skillet. When the butter foams, add in chicken, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until chicken has a light-golden crust. Remove chicken from pan, and turn off heat. Add Marsala to skillet. Turn heat back on to medium, and use a whisk to deglaze the pan by scraping up any residue on the bottom of the skillet. Return chicken, mushrooms, and onions to the pan. Cover skillet and reduce heat. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is tender. Turn chicken several times during cooking. If sauce looks too dry, add a little more Marsala.
When finished, place chicken on a plate and keep warm. Taste and adjust the sauce with salt or pepper as needed for seasoning. Arrange chicken on top of a small bed of capellini pasta then spoon sauce over the top. Serve immediately.