Let's put the Saute with Pan Sauce technique to work. This recipe is inspired by, of all things, Macaroni Grill. It's one of our regular stops for lunches at work, particularly if we have picky eaters in the crowd. It's a safe choice - who doesn't like pasta? And, for a chain restaurant, it's not bad.
*I like it a lot more than the other alternative that always comes up. Olive Garden. Eh, I think I brought my lunch today.
One of my good friends always orders the Chicken Marsala.* Not to knock Macaroni Grill, but I think I can do better.
I love to call these "Chicken Cutelets" (adding the extra "e" in the pronunciation, Cut-eh-lets). That is how it was pronounced by the retired Italian auto worker turned caterer who cooked them for our wedding reception. When we went to his house, before we hired him, he gave us a sample of the chicken. Then he proudly served his homemade wine. I still smile, thinking of us sitting in his tiny, immaculate, knick-knack filled front room, tasting chicken cutelets and homemade wine. Of course we hired him!
- 12 inch stainless steel fry pan (I love my All-Clad 12" fry pan. I was inspired to post this recipe as part of testing the new d5 All-Clad pans).
- 4 to 5 chicken breasts (About 1 ¾ to 2 pounds of chicken - the number depends on the size of the breasts and the size of your pan.)
- 2 to 2 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (½ teaspoon per chicken breast)
- 1 to 1 ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (¼ teaspoon per chicken breast)
- ½ cup flour (optional)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 cup of marsala. (Please get the real thing, not a "cooking wine marsala").
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
*For an overview, see my Saute with Pan Sauce basic technique
1. Prepare the Sauce: Mince the shallot, measure out the marsala and butter, and set aside.
2. Prepare the Chicken: Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly over the chicken breasts. Put the flour in a shallow pan, and coat the chicken breasts with a thin layer of flour, shaking to remove any excess.
3. Prepare the pan: Heat the butter and olive oil in your pan over medium-high heat, until the butter has stopped foaming and is just starting to turn brown.
4. Saute the Chicken: Place the floured chicken breasts in the pan, with as many of the thin "tails" on the edge as possible. Shake the pan to get the oil under the breasts, then let sit for 4 minutes, or until well browned. Flip the chicken, and cook the other side for another 4 minutes, or until well browned. Remove the breasts to a plate.
5. Make the Pan Sauce: Turn the heat down to medium, and add the minced shallot. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just softened, then add the marsala. Increase the heat to high, and scrape the bottom of the pan until all the browned bits of chicken are loose in the sauce. Boil until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, and whisk in the butter. Taste the sauce, and add salt and pepper until it is well seasoned.
6. Serve: Serve each chicken breast with 1 teaspoon of sauce drizzled on top, and pass the rest of the sauce at the table.
*Thin-cut chicken cutlets: If your market or grocery sells thin-cut chicken breasts, they work really well with this recipe; saute them for only 3 minutes a side. If you can't buy your breasts thin cut, and you are confident in your knife skills, you can make your own thin cut cutlets. Buy regular chicken breasts and cut them in half horizontally.
*Substitute any sweet liquor (sweet vermouth, madiera, port) instead of the marsala. It won't be Chicken Marsala, but it will taste delicious.
*Add some dried fruit to the marsala. If you want to get fancy, add 2 tablespoons of raisins, dried currants, or dried cherries to the pan with the shallots. (Currants go really well with marsala.)
*Serve with angel-hair pasta, tossed with butter and parmesan cheese. And serve a green vegetable. Sautes taste great, but they are a boring tan-brown color. When served with noodles, you need that hit of green from the vegetables to add some color to the plate.
*Look at me! I'm styling my food! Watch out, or I'll break out the squeeze bottles and really go to town.
*As I said in the basic technique, don't crowd your pan! At my local grocery store, the breasts are about 8 ounces, without tenderloins attached, so I can fit 4 breasts in my pan. If I can find 6 ounce breasts, I can fit 5 in the pan. If the chicken breasts come with tenderloins attached, I need one less breast. I pull the tenderloins off the breasts, season and flour them, and cook them like they were another breast.
*Cooking for a crowd, and want to double the recipe? Use two pans, or cook the chicken in two batches, adding another tablespoon of oil and butter to the pan between batches.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Chicken Marsala at Macaroni Grill
Pam Anderson How to Cook Without a Book
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