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Chicken Marsala Worthy of Self-Inflicted Wounds

This entry is part of a series, RdJ»

Chicken Marsala

Looking for a great dish for a romantic little dinner at home? Well, have we got a deal for you

Chicken Marsala is one of those ingenious Italian inventions that looks difficult to make, but really isn’t. It can even be a show piece. You’ll love it, and anybody who eats it with you will too. No, it’s not to die for, but close enough you may have to keep sharpened implements out of reach while you eat. Here’s a special version that cheats a bit and uses techniques that make Veal Cordon Bleu so tasty:

2 boneless chicken breast halves, about 8 ounces each
1 slice lightly-smoked provolone dolce, cut in 2 pieces
1 thin slice prosciutto, cut into 2 pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons butter
3 mushrooms, sliced
8 leaves baby spinach
1/8 cup Marsala wine
1/8 cup brown sauce

Heat oven to 350° F. Place a chicken breast on a cutting board and, using a very sharp knife, make a pocket in the thicker portion of the flesh. Stuff this pocket with half the provolone and the prosciutto, then tuck closed using a toothpick. Sprinkle the breast with salt and pepper. Repeat with the other breast.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in an ovenproof, medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, brown the chicken breasts for a couple minutes on each side. Don’t let the butter scorch, and don’t overcook the chicken or it will be rubbery. Remove chicken to a warm plate and set aside. Put mushrooms in skillet and add remaining butter. Sauté for a few minutes, until mushrooms have released their liquid. Add baby spinach and sauté for another minute or so. Add the Marsala and deglaze the pan. Finally, add the brown sauce and simmer for a minute or two, with stirring, until the sauce is hot through.

Add chicken breasts to sauce and toss to coat. Place the skillet in the oven for about five minutes. Remove from heat and plate the chicken. Pour remaining sauce over the meat and serve hot. A good quality white wine goes well with this dish, as does garlic Italian bread. (And Tiramisu for dessert; but that’s for another post.)

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What is Marsala wine, exactly? It’s a fortified wine, similar in some ways to Port or Madeira. (Don’t accept the explanation that an Englishman discovered it; they “discovered” everything in the 17th and 18th centuries, including tea. Which they stole.) It’s a wonderful wine for cooking as well as drinking, and it pairs with all sorts of pub grub and snacks. You should keep a bottle around if you’re into Italian cooking. If you can keep the hired help out of it.

Don’t eat pork? Well, there’s a simple way to avoid pork in this dish and still get the flavor profile. Use bresaola instead. A wonderful air-dried beef, this Italian product is as close as you can get to prosciutto without pork.

Brown sauce is one of the key elements here. Learn to make this stuff and you’ll quickly develop a devoted following. (Tom: Think groupies who follow you fly fishermen around.) Learn how to make brown sauce for Chicken Marsala and you may have to get restraining orders on some of said followers…

Enjoy the (Stuffed Italian Goodness) Heat!

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