Chicken Marsala

I often get requests for this dish, which is my mother in law’s favorite. I have done some research on its origins and the results are interesting. The basic style of preparation is quite common throughout Italy, generally in the form of a piccata or cutlet lightly floured sautéed in olive oil and/or butter, and served with a sauce made from white wine, butter, and possibly lemon or capers. But this particular dish appears to have originated among English families living in Western Sicily, where they were most likely involved in the Marsala wine trade. It was originally prepared with veal rather than chicken, but as veal has fallen out of favor for reasons relating to the way the calves are raised, that form of the dish is now rare. Like many syncretic dishes, it appeals to people with a variety of tastes.  I recommend serving it with polenta softened with cheese and with cooked greens, recipes for which I have also provided. 

Skinless, boneless check breasts, sliced thin and pounded. Allow one breast for every two people.

Mushrooms. White button mushrooms are fine, baby portabellas are better. Do not using anything with to exotic a flavor as it will likely be overwhelmed by other flavors and may discourage the less than extremely adventurous diners for whom a dish like this is generally prepared. Allow half a pound of mushrooms for every two diners.

1 cup of Marsala for every chicken breast.

Flour, salt, pepper and olive oil as needed.

Lightly flour the sliced and pounded chicken breasts. If you want a bit thicker coating then flour, drizzle with water, and flour again. Fry in oil until brown and set aside.

Slice mushrooms and sauté in oil over very high heat. A wok works well. The mushrooms should be brown and a little crisp. 

Add chicken back to pan with mushrooms. Add Marsala and cook until it thickens a bit. 

Polenta

2 cups coarsely ground wheat, barley, or maize

4 cups water

Olive oil and salt to taste.

Soft melting cheese such as Fontina

Pecorino Romano

Mix water and cracked or ground grain together in a thick bottomed sauce pan. Add salt and olive oil. Bring to boil. Stir until the polenta comes away from the sides of the pan. Add  melting cheese if desired. Serve with grated pecorino. 

Verdure Cotte

Garlic to taste

Chiles to taste

Olive oil (at least ¼ cup)

At least 1 bunch greens (remember that they reduce considerably in volume on cooking).

Salt

Lemon if desired. 

Greens generally benefit from simple treatment. In the case of spinach, wash thoroughly, shake off excess water, and steam in the water which clings to the leaves over high heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot until just barely wilting. Drain and allow to cool. In the case of tougher greens (nearly everything else) bring salted water to the boil in a large pot. Clean greens thoroughly and chop roughly. Dump into boiling salted water and keep submerged until not quite tender but still a brilliant green (they will continue to cook after removed from the water). Drain and allow to cool.

Heat olive oil with between one and seven crushed chiles arbol or japones until the chiles begin to brown or even blacken. Add finely chopped garlic, cooking until light brown. Add chopped, drained, and cooled greens and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and lemon if desired. Serve warm or cold. 

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