One of the best family stories I have (and it will somehow segue into a Chicken Marsala recipe) involves my dad emigrating to the U.S. from Naples, Italy. I called him to verify this, but he told me it was too far back to remember. Still, whether it’s true or not, it’s a classic story.
Rumor has it that before my pop came here on the boat, he was told how to order apple pie and coffee in English. It was pretty much all he knew how to say in English when he took the train to Gardena, California, where the family was waiting for him. Now this was in the 1950’s, so we’re talking about a long train ride from New York to LA.
Every time he ordered, it’d be, “Whaddaya want, Mack?”
“Apple-a pie-a and-a coffee.”
After a week of apple pie for every meal, he never wanted to see or eat it again. It’s like a story in the “Welcome to America” mythology: “As a new American, you should know that nothing’s as American as apple pie. So welcome to America, and here’s as much fucking apple pie as you can handle, rookie.” Whether it was my pop or a relative, it still must have happened to someone.
As I have written numerous times, I am lucky to be first generation when it comes to Italian food. I embrace it now, but I don’t think I understood it’s depth until I got into my twenties. We never went to Italian restaurants when I was growing up. Why would we? Even now, if I find a good one, I will go there only to order something that I simply would never make at home because it’s a pain in the ass. Moreover, no Italian restaurant can hold a candle to what anyone in my family makes. So, the first few times I went to an Italian restaurant, I vaguely remember looking at some of the dishes (i.e. Chicken Marsala) and wondering what the hell they were.
I have found Chicken Marsala on almost every Italian restaurant’s menu, yet I never had it growing up. And in my experience, chicks dig this recipe. Before I had ever tried it, it would come up in casual conversation, usually on a first or second date, as we chatted about the Italian food with which I grew up.
“So your dad’s, like, from Italy? Like, from there? I love Italian food. You should, like, make me some one night.”
“I know. It’s a trip that my dad’s from there. He’s got an accent and everything.”
“Really? Oh my god, I love Chicken Marsala. I bet your family, like, makes the most rad Chicken Marsala, right? Oh my god, I’m, like, making myself soooo hungry.”
“Right on. What are you going to order?”
“Like, a California roll. And those edie-mommy beans. They’re, like, totally good for you.” I dated a lot of girls who spoke in italics when talking to an Italian, obviously.
In any case, the first time I tried it, I loved it. It’s relatively easy to make and, truth be told, it’s not that fattening, either. On the old Weight Watchers, half a chicken breast is a 7 (Points Plus and 360° can both fuck off wantonly). You could probably save a few points by subbing non-fat cooking spray for the butter, but you would sacrifice flavor, I’m afraid.
This recipe is straight from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook with few modifications.
One note: use Marsala wine. It’s cheap, and substituting a dry sherry or Madeira just doesn’t work out as well. I’ve tried. I know.
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups sliced mushrooms
4 green onions, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup Marsala wine
Sliced green onions for garnish
Hot cooked pasta, like angel hair or linguine
Place each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a mallet or a small skillet, pound them into 1/4″ thickness and discard the plastic. On a flat plate or in a wide shallow bowl, combine the flour, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Coat each breast on both sides and shake off the excess. Set it aside for a bit.
In a large skillet, melt ONE tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add in the mushrooms and green onions and cook them until they’re tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove them from the skillet and set them aside for a bit.
In the same skillet, melt the two remaining tablespoons o’ butter. Add in the chicken breasts and brown them evenly, turning once, about 6 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and put the mushrooms and green onions back in it. Add the broth and Marsala to the skillet, return it to the heat, and get it boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer it, uncovered, for about 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and pepper.
Place a 1/2 cup hot pasta on a plate and place a chicken breast on it. Spoon the mushroom sauce over it all and serve. If you’re sexy, you’ll garnish it with a few more sliced green onions. Bob’s your uncle, and my uncle, come to think of it.
You’ll agree that it’s, like, totally bitchin’.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013