Staple Eats: Chicken Marsala

Now that the winter season has been ushered in by virtue of two snowstorms (in the past three days, no less), I’m shifting my culinary focus to more hearty, warming, winter meals. In the past, I’ve been guilty of going overboard with my consumption of said hearty meals, so this year I’m hoping to make some lighter variations of winter favorites: soups, meatloaf, lasagna, chili, mac & cheese, and twice-baked potatoes (one of my all-time favorite recipes). That being said, sometimes you need to just let yourself go, house some of your favorite foods, and sit comatose on the nearest couch, bed, chair, or floor and call it a night.  In some cases, it’s ineluctable.

My earliest recollections of chicken marsala are not from my own kitchen, but rather at sports banquets and special events. In truth, I haven’t had many variations of chicken marsala since this time period in my own life, but as an avid lover of food and cooking, I felt like this was a must try.

Cooking Light’s chicken marsala-esque recipe caught my eye because of how straightforward it seemed and because it’s a slightly lighter take on the classic recipe. For one, there’s considerably less butter and flour. Per the recipe, I also used a lower-sodium chicken broth. There’s a triad of mushrooms (porcini, shittake, and button) as well as sautéed onions and lush cherry tomatoes. The basil as a finishing touch acts as both garnish and a flavor enhancement. And as far as aesthetics go, the final product is extremely appealing to the eye. I placed the chicken over a small mound of mashed potatoes at the end, so that just enough sauce soaks into the potatoes. As with any wine and chicken broth sauce pairing, you’ll come away from this meal wanting even more than you started with.

Chicken Marsala
Recipe taken from http://www.cookinglight.com
Yields 4 servings

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion 
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced button mushrooms (about 4 ounces)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
2/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes 
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Place porcini mushrooms in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Cover and let stand 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse; drain well. Thinly slice.

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound chicken to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Combine 3 teaspoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour mixture.

Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; cover and keep warm.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, red pepper, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, porcini, shiitake, button mushrooms, and oregano; sauté 6 minutes or until mushrooms release moisture and darken. Sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute. Add chicken and tomatoes; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, turning chicken once. Sprinkle with basil.

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