Chicken Marsala

This twist on an Italian classic uses Japanese panko bread crumbs to create a delicate yet irresistibly crisp breading on the outside of lightly fried chicken cutlets which are then served with a savory Marsala mushroom sauce over angel hair pasta.

Time: 45-60 minutes
Level:  Easy/Intermediate
Cost: About $4-6 per plate
Serves: 4- 6

Ingredients:

  1.   2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied, sliced through and pounded into cutlets about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. 1/4 cup flour
  3. 1 TBSP Paprika
  4. Salt and Pepper
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 TBSP vodka (optional, adds crunch!)
  7. 2 TBSP cream or milk
  8. 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  9. 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  10. 1 TBSP butter (or clarified butter, which you can buy at Trader Joe’s, also called ‘ghee’)
  11. 2 TBSP regular butter
  12. 1-2 TBSP olive oil
  13. 4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  14. 5oz Prosciutto, diced
  15. 1 14oz can low sodium chicken stock
  16. 1 cup dry Marsala cooking wine
  17. 8oz Cremini or Baby Bella brown mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on their size
  18. 1 box angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions
  19. 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.  Begin heating 3-4 quarts water for pasta.

Mince garlic, open can of chicken stock, measure out Marsala wine, slice mushrooms and Prosciutto.  Set aside.

Set up your chicken dredging station.  You’ll need two, wide shallow dishes and one medium sized bowl.

  • Put the flour in one of the wide, shallow dishes.  Season aggressively with salt and pepper; add paprika and whisk together.
  • In the second wide, shallow dish add Panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  whisk together until well mixed.
  • Crack two eggs into the medium sized bowl; add vodka (if using) and cream/milk.  Whisk together until slightly foamy.
  • Set them up in this order:  Flour mixture, egg wash, bread crumb mixture

Dredge a chicken cutlet first in the flour mixture (shaking of excess), then dip into the egg wash, and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing firmly to adhere to each side.

Note:  If you want exceptionally crispy breading that is almost guaranteed not to fall off your chicken cutlets, do this:  Dredge your cutlets in this order – Egg Wash, Flour, Egg wash, Panko Mixture.  Once breaded, place them on a baking sheet and refrigerate them for 30 minutes before continuing to the next step.

Heat olive oil and 1 TBSP butter in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat and gently stir to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add cutlet to skillet and fry 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining cutlets.

Note:  You  can fry more than one at a time, but you’ll probably need to work in batches – every time a cutlet is added to the skillet, it will reduce the over-all temperature, which will hinder browning and increase the possibility of soaking the breading in oil rather than frying it.  I’ve found that 3-4 cutlets at a time is a good number, depending on their size.  You may also need to add more fat to the pan between batches; this is also okay.  If you do, try to keep the olive oil-to-butter ratio at roughly 1:1.

When all the cutlets are browned, placed them on a lightly greased (Pam works great here) baking sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked through, with an internal temperature of at least 160F.

While the cutlets are coming up to temp in the oven, make your pan sauce. Add 1/2 TBSP butter and Prosciutto and sauté until lightly browned and fat has mostly rendered, 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until liquid is absorbed into mushrooms and mushrooms begin to lightly caramelize.  Pour in Marsala wine and ignite by slowly moving a lit grill lighter over the pan.  You will get flames; they will be large – so make sure loose clothing, hair, and other flammables are well out of the way.  Keep a lid nearby in case things get out of control (which they probably won’t).

Note: It helps to have the Marsala wine measured out in a container such as a measuring cup or glass.  You should be holding the container of Marsala in your non-dominant hand and then holding grill lighter in your dominant hand.  Never pour alcohol into a hot pan directly from the bottle, unless you want to risk blowing the bottle up in your hands.  Anyway,  away from the heat, holding the grill lighter in your dominant hand, light it.  Keeping it lit, use your other hand to pour the Marsala wine into the pan.  Wait about 2 seconds for the alcohol to begin to vaporize and slowly move the lit lighter over the pan to ignite the wine.  If you don’t get flames or everything fizzles out, that’s okay.  Just cook the wine down for 3 or so minutes until the raw alcohol has cooked off.  See How to Flambé for more information.

Add the chicken stock and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low and simmer to reduce sauce, 5-10 minutes.

Now is probably a good time to cook the pasta, which will take 5-7 minutes, while the sauce is reducing.  Just before serving, add the final 2 TBSP butter to the sauce and stir in until fully melted and incorporated.

To plate:  Place pasta on plate, place a chicken cutlet (or two) on top of the pasta, and spoon pan sauce over cutlet and pasta.  Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges if desired.  Serve with extra Parmesan cheese.

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