Lighter Chicken Marsala

The Golden Globes entertained me last night on many levels.  Knowing what the big winners are helps me plan my 12 Days of Oscar feature better.  Tommy Lee Jones’ reaction during Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell’s presentation for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy or Musical was the most priceless reaction shot of the night.  I disagree with critics who say that Tommy Lee Jones just doesn’t know what funny is- I think he knows funny, and the presentation wasn’t funny.  The “who are you wearing?” chatter from the red carpet didn’t disappoint.  Yes, awards shows are a guilty pleasure.  I had a good chuckle during Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s opening when Tina Fey referred to The Hunger Games as “the six weeks it took me to get into this dress,” and Amy Poehler said that Life of Pi is what she would call the six weeks after she took her dress off.  I find it hard to believe that either of these ladies would need to starve for six weeks to fit into anything, but it was well-played just the same.

As far as six weeks of hunger in order to slim down, it’s not necessary if you know how to lighten up favorite recipes.  I’m all for lightening up a recipe whenever I can, but I have my limits.  I tend to stay away from low-fat or non-fat dairy (sour cream, cheeses) because I find that when I use the full-fat version, I get better texture and feel more satisfied with the outcome.  I won’t resort to what I call “foods that aren’t food,” that have chemicals and sugars added in order to trick you into thinking you’re eating a healthier version of something.  I don’t ban frying as a cooking method because when it’s done right and enjoyed in moderation, frying isn’t the worst thing for you.  For some dishes, “oven-frying” just doesn’t do it, and those dishes end up in the rotation with more moderation than some others.

For chicken Marsala though, I find that frying the chicken isn’t what makes this dish great.  The mushrooms and sauce actually steal the show, so when I don’t fry the chicken I don’t feel like I’m missing something.  I used half whole wheat flour to dredge the chicken, and there was no taste difference between this and my old chicken Marsala recipe.  Actually, the only differences are that I used some whole wheat flour, eliminated the butter and instead used olive oil spray (I use a Misto, but commercial olive oil sprays are available) to saute the chicken and mushrooms, and made the sauce with a mixture of Marsala wine and chicken broth.  Seeing as how I find Marsala wine to be a little overwhelming on its own, cutting it with chicken broth served two purposes nicely.  The resulting dish was every bit as good as my favorite restaurant chicken Marsala, and by making only a few minor changes, it was better for us and more filling.  I would make chicken like this for other dishes, but because the coating is light I would advise limiting this method to dishes with a thin or light sauce so you don’t end up with all of the coating coming off into the sauce.  I served this over pasta, but I love it over mashed potatoes or egg noodles as well.

chicken marsala

Lighter Chicken Marsala


  • 3 Tbsp. whole-wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp. white flour
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. chicken cutlets (butterfly chicken breasts and then pound them out to 1/4-1/2 inch thick)
  • 3 C. sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/2 C. Marsala wine
  • 1/2 C. low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaf
  • olive oil cooking spray (I use a Misto)


Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a shallow bowl, combine flours and pepper.

Dredge chicken in mixture and set aside.

Lightly coat a large, nonstick skillet with olive oil cooking spray and heat on medium-high.

Add chicken and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. If the chicken is not cooked through after this, place the chicken onto the prepared baking sheet and into the oven while you prepare the mushrooms and sauce.  If the chicken is cooked through, turn the oven off, place the chicken onto an oven-safe plate, and put the plate into the oven to keep the chicken warm.

Add mushrooms and shallots to pan and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.

Add wine to pan and reduce to a glaze, scraping any loose brown bits from bottom of pan.

Reduce heat and add broth and thyme.

Cook, stirring, until broth reduces by half.

Return chicken to pan and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from Women’s Health


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