Monday, October 03, 2005

The 'Best' Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala
The New Best Recipe Copyright 2004

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 to 6 ounces each), fat trimmed I used tenders
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ ounces (about 3 slices) pancetta, cut into 1 by 1/8-inch pieces
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups sweet Marsala
1 ½ tablespoons juice from 1 large lemon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves Oops! I forgot this

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a large heatproof dinner plate on the rack and heat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Pat the chicken breasts dry. Place the flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Season both sides of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper to taste. Working with one cutlet at a time, coat both sides with flour. Lift the breasts from the tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the cutlets and cook on the second side until golden brown and the meat feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to the heated plate and return the plate to the oven.
4. Return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta. Sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen brown bits, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels and drain.
5. Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom, until the liquid released by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook stirring constantly until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off the heat, add the Marsala. Return the pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 ¼ cups, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the lemon juice and any accumulated juice from the chicken. Whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

When I first got done cooking this dish, I wasn’t sure about it. Maybe the fumes from the reducing Marsala clouded my judgment. But somewhere between the stove and the table any doubts vanished. This was wonderful. Really, really wonderful. The only think I might change is I might cut down on the lemon juice next time, just a bit. Otherwise, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Excuse the lousy picture- I was in a hurry to eat this.

The New Best Recipe is a cookbook compiled by the editors from Cook’s Illustrated. They must search the world over to for the most anal chefs they can find but in this case their nitpicking paid off. There were many, many paragraphs preceding this recipe describing the pains they went through to come up with this ‘best’ recipe. It is a bit of overkill at times but this is definitely a cookbook that everyone should have in their collection.

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