La Lama Mountain Ovens
The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.
This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.
Family Secrets #21
By Ray Zara, La Lama Mountain Ovens
|A Marsala sauce is the
quintessential favorite of those who pursue the fine art
of sauté. This delicate sauce is both delicious and
quite simple to make, and is extremely versatile. Chicken
breasts are my favorite to accompany a great Marsala
sauce, but it also goes very well with a thin pounded
scaloppini of veal, or a medallion of pork tenderloin.
The Marsala sauce is classically served with mushrooms
cooked with the pan sauce. I recommend porcini mushrooms
for their depth of flavor, but portabellos or plump white
button mushrooms will also work well. If you do use
portabellos make sure you remove the "gill"
from the mushroom or the sauce will be unattractively
dark. Simply scrape it out with the tip of a teaspoon.
This dish was not considered a staple in our household while growing up. We bought our chickens live once a week and using only the breast to feed a growing family was not economically feasible. However, Mom did always have a good bottle of Marsala wine in the pantry for use in general cooking and desserts.
When purchasing Marsala for your kitchen you will notice several different brands available in "sweet" or "dry". The brand "Florio Sweet" is produced and bottled in western Sicily, and is by far the favorite of most chefs.
Although the wine does an excellent job in various desserts, using it alone in the sauté pan will result in an overpoweringly sweet sauce. I can always tell when ordering Chicken Marsala at a restaurant whether they have "tempered" the wine or used it straight from the bottle. By "tempering" the wine I mean adding a small amount of a dry white wine, enough to take the edge off of the sweetness but still maintain the flavor of the Marsala.
The following recipe will serve two adults with hearty appetites or four small eaters. You might finish the plate with a fresh green vegetable in season, such as asparagus spears or broccoli florets. Keep the vegetables simple by steaming them lightly and drizzling a bit of melted butter and fresh lemon juice on them. Prepared this way they will complement the Marsala sauce rather than vie for attention. The accompanying picture shows glazed fresh yellow beets in a bed of their own beet greens - a bit more complex but irresistible when in season.
The chicken breasts here are prepared the same way as for chicken piccata. Have your trusty clarified butter ready - and refer to the recipe for chicken piccata if you need a refresher on how to make this necessary sauté staple.
Step One: Prepare chicken breasts
Step Two: Sauté chicken breasts
Step Three: The finish
To serve, place mushrooms along plate rim, 2 breasts in the center, spoon pan sauce over both and garnish with finely chopped parsley.
Altitude Adjustment: None required.