I have to admit, I was shocked when I realized I hadn't blogged this recipe yet. It was one of the first "fancy" recipes I ever made, first time I cooked with pancetta (when I went to the deli the first time I made this and asked for pancetta, they didn't know what it was. They asked me if it was meat or cheese and *I* had no idea what it was. That was an interesting trip...), and first time I realized that mushrooms can be awesome if you cook the water out of them. To this day, it's one of Sarah's favorite recipes that I make, and it's well worth the effort that goes into it. The recipe comes from the Italian Classics cookbook from the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. I love this whole series of cookbooks, because they try all sorts of variations and explain why the ingredients they pick and the cooking method they pick are the best, and I've never been disappointed with anything I've made. This recipe alone has three pages of commentary before the actual recipe begins. Everything from which type of Marsala wine to use (imported sweet), different ratios of wine to stock for the pan sauce (no stock at all in the final recipe), and how they decided how much oil/butter/pancetta to use. I can't include all the notes, but I also can't recommend these Best Recipes cookbooks highly enough. Some (most?) of the recipes are a little complicated, but they're all completely worth it.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 to 6 ounces each), fat trimmed
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2½ ounces pancetta (about 3 slices), cut into pieces 1 inch long and ⅛ inch wide
- 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1½ cups sweet Marsala
- 1½ Tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a large heatproof dinner plate on the rack, and heat the oven to 200°F.
- Pat the chicken breasts dry. Place the flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Season both sides of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper to taste. Working with one cutlet at a time, coat both sides with flour. Lift the breast from the tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the cutlets and cook on the second side until golden brown and the meat feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to the heated plate and return the plate to the oven.
- Return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta. Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until the pancetta is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. (see notes) With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom, until the liquid released by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off the heat, add the Marsala. Return the pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and rediced to about 1¼ cups, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the lemon juice and any accumulated juices from the chicken. Whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
I'm not sure what's going on in step 4, but it always takes me much longer than 4 minutes to get the pancetta brown and crisp. I'm not sure if my low heat is lower than theirs, my pancetta is cut thicker than theirs, or some combination of the two. In any case, cook it until it's brown and crisp.
I almost always leave the parsley out, and I almost always serve this with roasted potatoes and onions. I switched it up today and served it with pasta for a change of pace.