I like my chicken dishes like I like my midgets: Boneless, braised in their own stock, but with crispy skin.
This is not exactly a typical Chicken Marsala recipe. I like to do the veggies/aromatics by themselves with the Marsala. Meanwhile, I braise the chicken in the oven with the bottom half simmering in stock and the skin half roasting in the high heat. The meat is succulent while the skin is crispy and delish. Any cuts of chicken work but boneless thighs are my favorite. They are succulent and nobody has to fuss with bones. Bone-in is fine too. Legs and thighs are the best for a dish like this. Breasts are dry and dull. This is not the best dish if you are counting calories so save the chicken breasts for a salad or a low fat dish.
In order to follow my recipe you will need the right cookware to braise the chicken in the oven. You can use a dutch oven or cast iron. I use a 6 quart stainless steel saute pan in this recipe. Whatever you use, it must be stove-top and oven safe up to 500 degrees F. Cast iron is the cheapest and most durable but harder to lift. A dutch oven is basically enameled cast iron, so it looks nicer and costs more. Stainless steel does not weigh as much, is easier to get in and out of the stove, but costs more. Whichever you chose, I will refer to this item as the braising pan. You will also need a large frying or saute pan. I hate non-stick cookware. I recommend cast iron or stainless steel because you want to be able to brown the bottom of your pan with hunks of food and spices. This is called FOND. We deglaze a pan with liquid and turn that fond into deliciousness. You have to be able to scrape the bottom. Try that with Teflon and that junk ends up in your food.
- 2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, skin on
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp high heat oil or fat (I use avocado oil)
- 3 cups sliced mushrooms (Any combo: Cremini, oyster, shitake, portobello)
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced or sliced on a truffle shaver
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1.5 cups Marsala wine – Good stuff from the wine section, not shitty “cooking wine”
- 2 cups warmed chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 2 Tbsp sour cream (or more for a creamier/thicker sauce)
- Zest of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tsp to 1 tbsp)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (about a half oz)
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp minced thyme
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tbsp salt-free seasoning (optional) – I use the Costco stuff.
- Fresh chopped Italian parsley, to garnish (optional)
Trim the extra skin from your chicken and lay it out on a sheet or container. Sprinkle it with the salt, paprika, and poultry seasoning (if using). It’s best to do this the night before or at least a few hours prior to cooking but it’s not required.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. If you have a convection setting, use it. I use convection roast. Put your braising pan on the stove top on high heat. Add in your oil and let it get sizzling hot. Place the chicken skin side down. Don’t do all the chicken at once or it will cool the oil too fast. Work in batches and brown the chicken on both sides for flavor. You don’t need to fully cook the chicken, the oven will do that. Remove the chicken when browned and place them on a plate.
Hopefully, the bottom of your braising pan will be covered in bits of brown food and spices that are stuck to the bottom. That is called fond and we want that for flavor. Deglaze the bottom using a cup or less of your chicken stock. Lower the heat and pour it in a little at a time so the hot oil does not splatter. Use a spatula or scraper to get those bits of stuck food up from the bottom. They will unstick as the stock steams in the oil and mixes into the liquid.
Place the chicken back into the braising pan with the skin side up. Pour in the rest of the chicken stock until the bottom half of the chicken pieces are submerged but the skin is exposed to the air. If your braising dish is too large or small for this recipe, you may need more or less liquid to get chicken half submerged correctly. If you have left over stock, save it for later. If you run out of liquid, steal a half cup of Marsala from your stash. Be careful not to overload it with Marsala. We’ll be adding that to the veggies and we don’t want a Marsala bomb. You can add white wine too. Transfer the braising pan into the oven and let it braise for 30 minutes.
On the stove, put a large pan on high heat, add in 1 tbsp butter, and saute the mushrooms for about 15 minutes until they release their water and start getting golden. Add the onions and the thyme, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest. Saute another ten minutes until the onions release their liquid. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter into the mushroom and onion and then sprinkle the flour on top. Stir until the fat and flour form a gooey roux.
Then pour in the remaining Marsala wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits and roux stuck to the bottom. The wine and the roux should form a light gravy. Place this on low and let it simmer so it will thicken.
If you are cooking bone-in chicken you will need to check it with a thermometer stuck in the thickest part until it reaches 165 degrees F. Boneless thighs will cook completely in 30 min. At this point check to see if the skin is as crispy as you want it. As you can see in the photo, I cranked my oven up to 450 F and let it go another 15-20 minutes until the skin was brown and crispy. Remove the thighs and place them on a plate. Carefully bring your braising pan out of the oven and place it back on the stove top on medium heat. If you had to use extra liquid, ladle some of it out into a bowl and set aside. You can reincorporate it later if needed once you get a sense of how thick or thin the sauce is.
With your chicken set aside, transfer the mushroom and onion saute into the braise pan so that the Marsala batch mixes with the chicken stock braising liquid. You can simmer this on low until it become a nice sauce. It does not need to be a gravy, it just needs to cling to pasta. Add in the rest of your stock or more Marsala if it is too thick. When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add in sour cream to thicken further.
Place the chicken back into the pot with the mushrooms and sauce.
Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with fresh minced Italian parsley.