Recently, we had dinner at a neighbor’s home. At the end of the meal I was offered a glass of Marsala wine. Not something I normally would be offered but it’s been a while since I had an after dinner drink of Marsala. “Of course,” I said enthusiastically. Flavors of tobacco, brown sugar and apricot all filled my mouth. It was a nice little treat at the end of the meal. However, the best part about it was the flavors of one of my favorite Italian dishes, all in a glass. Yes, the next day I was craving Chicken Marsala.
We forget that this popular dish was the result of a special wine. Marsala is a city on the West coast of Sicily. It is special for two reasons. It is made with only Sicilian grapes and the techniques used in extracting the grape have been passed down for centuries. Slow cooked grapes turn this wine into a sweet but dry after dinner delight.
So, where did the Chicken Marsala dish come from? Legend has it that French families, living in Sicily during the Napoleonic wars, wanted a dish similar to their old country roots, made with gravy. A Sicilian chef whom lived with one of these families created the dish to mirror their request. The popularity of the dish grew during the Italian migration to the U.S. during the early 1900’s. Being that the majority of Italian immigrants are from Sicily, they took their secluded regional dish and made it with ingredients they found here in the “States”. That’s why it’s not surprising that this dish is much more popular here than in Italy. Go to Florence, Rome or Venice and you won’t find this dish on restaurant menus (unless the restaurant is marketing for tourists).
Our Chicken Marsala is made with all natural chicken breast, crimini mushrooms, fresh herbs and reduced in our Marsala wine sauce. We serve it with linguini Stefano and fresh vegetables. If you haven’t tried it in a while, it’s time to indulge again!