chicken marsala

Having proven himself with the manly task of digging into shale to plant some shrubs as a border for our new paver-stone patio behind our modest town home, bob forgoes exercising on the Tony Little Gazelle machine after work, leaving it to ani for a change, who in turn skips her Pilates for a short token run on the Gazelle. Leaving bob to deal with the thin sliced chicken breast and 99 cent a pound seasonal asparagus (cheap in 2004!) snatched on the way home. Chicken marsala was already on his mind after a previous evening's report on a restaurant visit by his mom about a veal marsala dish that was slightly off. We can do better was the intent, with chicken slightly more healthy and less guilt-laden as a choice considering the horror stories of how young cows are mistreated to produce commercial veal. At least this time. We still do veal. We're inconsistent.

We'd already done Marcella's veal marsala recipe a few times in the past. The distant past since the details were no longer stored in accessible memory. Instead of pulling out her book bob looked into the approach taken by the food scientists at the America's Test Kitchen Cook's Illustrated magazine kitchen, in particular in their cookbook Classic Italian, a group effort led by the team member with the classic Italian grandmother who inspired him all the way into the food business. But their recipe had pancetta, mushrooms, tomato paste, they advised sweet Marsala (we prefer dry, based on untested prejudice against sweet wines in general, not particularly relevant in cooking). We had no pancetta or mushrooms and did not have tomato paste in our vision. Their advice about garlic, lemon juice and keeping the chicken warm in the oven while doing the more complicated sauce did help us with the simpler route we were looking for though.

So we threw together an amateur mojito with superfine Splenda (sugar substitute) since we were out of superfine sugar and this year sugar is bad anyway (carb awareness kicks in nationwide), hence the Splenda on hand for ani. Fresh mint was the third key buy on the way home. A little mojito mix and Bacardi light rum and we were in business, using a not-meant-for-shaking tall traveling coffee mug with a couple of small drinking and air holes in the removable top that had to be covered with two fingers during shaking. Over the sink. We prepped the asparagus first before doing the grilled asparagus with parmesan, again not following the recipe in Classic Italian. We're food rebels. But not without a cause.

The chicken came together pretty well, while the asparagus was finished off in the broiler (oven). Oops, no pasta or rice or potato to keep them company. Banned from regular consumption by the new food order. And we were too lazy to put a salad together. A few reheated brussel sprouts help out, and some whole wheat pita bread for bob, with more size to feed than ani. The Marsala, especially with the lemon-garlic accent, is a real success. Who would have thought? We're all bozos on this bus, but sometimes the clowns get the job done.


3/4 lb thin sliced chicken breast (ours had 5 pieces)
salt and pepper
flour to coat
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 T Marsala wine
juice of half a big lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed


  1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken with paper towels.
  2. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper and then coat with flour (refined, white, but so little, who cares). Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil and butter and then brown the chicken in two shifts since only about half will fit in the nonstick frying pan at a time.
  4. Put the first chicken batch in a glass pan in the preheated warm oven while you do the second batch.
  5. Remove the second chicken batch to the glass pan and add the wine and lemon juice and reduce a bit, then press in the garlic and toss around a minute or so.
  6. Put the chicken back in the pan and let simmer a few more minutes on low heat.
  7. Then serve, pouring a little of the sauce over each serving.


  1. Oh yeah, the asparagus. After the half cooking by the usual asparagus pot boiling halfway up the stalks treatment, we drained them and put them in a glass dish and sprayed them with extra virgin garlic flavored olive oil and tossed them around a bit to coat, grating in some parmagiano to taste and tossing a bit and then grating a bit more for good measure. Was there some salt and pepper tossed in too? Probably. All inserted into the broiler under careful watch. Browned a bit so you could tell they were close to fire. Yum.
  2. I'm not sure of the relevance of that bozos on the bus remark, but it seemed appropriate at the time. It comes from an old weird 1970s comedy album by Firesign Theater that stuck in my head for all this time.
  3. Some may question our assumption that chickens don't count while small cows do, in our substitution of chicken for veal. Yup, we're inconsistent there too.
  4. No pictures were taken since it seemed so easy, but then ani raved about the chicken and bob was surprised at the terrific flavor of the asparagus besides feeling good about the way the chicken turned out, by which time the plates were half-eaten and decidedly unphotogenic. Next time.
  5. The next time we did try it with veal, but definitely not as tender.
  6. Then we spontaneously invited the in-laws, 7 adults and some kids on a late Sunday afternoon and did the chicken again. They liked it.
  7. And then we did it again, and took some photos.
  8. We later tried it with thin slices of turkey breast that have appeared in our supermarkets, and ani through in some fresh chopped parsley as a garnish that added a nice little bit of color to the dish. And sliced the garlic instead of pressing it. Tasted great.
chkmrsla.htm: 18-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]