Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chicken Marsala with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Chicken Marsala is an Italian dish made from chicken, mushrooms and Marsala wine. The chicken is traditionally pounded into cutlets, coated in flour, briefly sautéed, and then removed from the pan, which is then used to make a Marsala reduction sauce. I prefer to use bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on, and roasted whole in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown. Brushing the breasts with oil and seasoning with black pepper, paprika and a liberal dose of kosher salt ensures a perfect crisp outer skin. Just before the breasts have finished roasting, the Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce is prepared by sautéeing the mushrooms in a little butter and olive oil until they become soft and fragrant. Some marsala wine or dry sherry is then added and cooked for about 5 minutes until the mixture reduces slightly. Cream and fresh thyme are then stirred and cooked over a reduced heat for another 6 to 8 minutes. Thick, creamy and absolutely swimming with mushrooms, the sauce is poured over the chicken breasts, that have been arranged on a warm platter, and garnished with a tangle of fresh thyme. Served with sautéed new potatoes and a spinach or vegetable gratin, this is an easy and delicious recipe that's perfect on any chilly evening.

Chicken Marsala with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika

Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb sliced crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 cup Marsala or Sherry
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus whole sprigs for garnish
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat the chicken breasts with vegetable oil and set on a foil lined baking pan. Season with fresh ground black pepper, paprika and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt — the more salt, the crisper the skin. Roast the chicken breasts for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts, until they are crisp and golden brown. Turn off the oven, cover the chicken with aluminium foil and begin the Marsala Cream Sauce.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mushrooms are barely cooked through. Add the Marsala or Sherry and cook for 5 minutes allowing the wine to slightly reduce. Stir in the heavy cream and thyme leaves, reduce the heat to medium and cook the mushroom sauce for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and arrange on a warm serving platter. Spoon the Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce over top, and garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme.

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