Cookbook Profile

Chicken with Mock Marsala Sauce

Makes 4 servings


Both Chicken and Veal Marsala can be found on nearly every Italian restaurant menu. Marsala, a fortified wine with a rich and smoky flavor, comes either dry or sweet, and both variations are popular additions to dishes from entrées to desserts. In general, the dry version, similar to a dry sherry, is used in this classic preparation and, along with chicken or veal stock, is reduced to a rich brown pan sauce. Occasionally, mushrooms and even a touch of cream are added.

In order to replicate the role that marsala plays in this dish, we need to consider its task as a thickening agent as well as a flavor provider. For flavor, we can begin with a standard wine substitution of white grape juice and sherry vinegar. Combined with a dark, full-flavored broth, we'll get the consistency and color we are after. In addition, we need a subtle flavoring to wake up the sauce, and vanilla can contribute what we need.

Many chefs are discovering that the wonderfully fragrant vanilla bean actually has a place outside the pastry kitchen, infusing sauces for everything from fish to beef with marvelous results. Here, a very simple addition of a nonalcohol vanilla extract will provide that certain something to the resulting sauce. And diners will try to guess what you've substituted in your mock marsala to bring it to such delicious heights!

If you would like to add mushrooms to this dish, brown them quickly in the pan after you remove the chicken fillets and before you add the juice and stock. Thinly sliced baby bellas or even shiitake mushrooms would be excellent choices.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound thin-cut chicken breast fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
All-purpose flour for dredging
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth or veal stock
1/4 cup white grape juice
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon nonalcohol vanilla extract

1. In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter in the oil over medium heat. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and lightly dredge in flour, tapping off any excess. Fry the fillets, without crowding, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a warm platter and set aside.

2. Add the broth, grape juice, and vinegar to the skillet, increase the heat to high, and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, then stir in the vanilla and taste for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.


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The Sober Kitchen
Recipes and Advice for a Lifetime of Sobriety
by Liz Scott
Harvard Common Press
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ISBN: 1-55832-220-5
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ISBN: 1-55832-221-3
Recipe reprinted by permission.


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This page created April 2004