December 7, 2010

Chicken and Mushroom Marsala

In our lifelong quest to find simple, dare-I-say delicious chicken recipes, we recently tried Chicken and Mushroom Marsala from Smitten Kitchen.  When staring at a package of three boneless skinless chicken breasts, where else would I turn?  I can't think of a better resource for a go-to meal than Smitten Kitchen.  And it was indeed delicious.  Well, all of it except the chicken.  Like many recipes using boneless skinless chicken breast, the chicken itself turned out dry and rather flavorless.  The short cooking time that boneless skinless chicken requires doesn't give it sufficient time to absorb flavors.

But the flavor in the mushroom sauce was so satisfying we almost didn't care about the chicken.  Almost.  Next time we do this we'll make some adjustments, though I don't know what.  Deb advises (in the comment section) that you brine the chicken, and we did, but the end result was still rather tasteless.  Next time we might marinate the chicken first?  Or maybe using organic chicken, which I've read might be more tender than the stuff we bought at Trader Joes.  Simply checking for doneness first, could solve the moisture problem, and there's truly enough flavor in the sauce...  Or, our six-year-old recommended substituting beef.

Before I share the recipe though, I must note that this was a quick weeknight for us.  We had no chicken broth or marsala wine.  I've read somewhere that you can substitute red wine with a splash of brandy for marsala, so that it what I do when we don't have marsala on hand.  And in this case I substituted diluted apple juice for the chicken broth.  There's no rythmn or reason to that substitution; I just wanted something with a little flavor, so I used apple juice.  The apple flavor doesn't come through, but like I said,  the finished product was really good.  The mushrooms are definitely the star of the show, so good, in fact, immersed in the marsala gravy, that one can almost forget the chicken all together. 

This is one of those recipes that demonstrates the amazing power of butter.  A sauce is created using the pan juices from the chicken, sauteed onions and mushrooms, marsala wine and chicken broth.  It's just mushrooms in a brown sauce until you take it off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter.  That butter kind of draws it all together, creating a silky gravy, full of delicious meaty mushrooms to serve over the chicken.

Chicken and Mushroom Marsala
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen where it was adapted from Gourmet Magazine.
Deb says this serves 6.  I say 2-4 servings with leftover chicken that can used for something else.  Believe me, these mushrooms are so good, you won't have any leftover no matter how many people you intend to serve.   Add a loaf of crusty bread to complete the meal.

3 boneless chicken breasts, with or without skin, cut in half (about 2 1/2) pounds
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, sliced thinly
3/4 pound mushrooms sliced thinly
1/2 cup marsala
1 cup chicken broth (or apple juice diluted by 50%)
Garnish: 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
To serve: crusty bread.

1.  Pat chicken dry.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in large heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Brown chicken in two batches.  Transfer chicken to a plate.

2.  Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat.  Saute onion and mushrooms over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  After a few minutes, the mushrooms will give off some liquid.  Turn the heat to medium high and saute until most of the liquid is evaporated.  Add marsala and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the marsala is almost evaporated.  Add chicken broth, chicken pieces and any liquid that has accumulated on the plate.

3.  Cook uncovered, turning the chicken once until cooked through, 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  Transfer cooked chick to a clean, preheated platter.  Continue to cook mushroom sauce until the liquid is reduced to about half a cup.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Spoon mushroom sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

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