Published May 1, 2000.
The secret? Use the right pan, lots of heat, sweet Marsala--and no stock.
Chicken Marsala is standard fare in Italian restaurants. After ordering it several times to get a feel for the recipe, we began to think that it, like many reliable things, was being taken for granted. We encountered watery sauces, flaccid mushrooms, and pale, stale chicken. Chicken Marsala was clearly in need of rescue.
Tender pieces of chicken with earthy mushrooms in a sauce redolent of sweet Marsala wine.
The classic French method of sautéing the meat, removing it from the pan, and then building a sauce from the browned bits left in the pan proved best. After the chicken came the mushrooms, which caused the pan drippings from the chicken to burn when we added them straight away to the pan. An intermediate step, in which we rendered the fat from small pieces of pancetta and then used it to release the brown bits from the pan, solved the problem. The pancetta also added a meaty, peppery punch to the sauce, which we were now ready to tackle. We prefer sweet (as opposed to dry) Marsala for its depth of flavor and smooth finish. Some lemon juice tempered the Marsala's sweetness, while a clove of garlic and a teaspoon of tomato paste rounded out the flavors. Finally, butter, whisked into the sauce at the end, added a dreamlike finish and beautiful sheen.list of recipes