Although chicken Marsala is not a complicated dish, it is elegant, and the silky sauce produced is luscious. When you serve it over pasta, couscous, polenta, rice, mashed potatoes, with a salad or vegetable, it is a meal fit for family or company.
Add a complimentary side dish, and your guests will understand they are getting something special. Where things can become complicated with chicken Marsala, however, is with wine pairings.
Which Wines Go With Chicken Marsala?
The emphasis on pairing wine with chicken Marsala is not on the chicken. If that were true, you would select a white or light red wine.
When selecting a wine to pair with Chicken Marsala, you need a wine that compliments the sauce. Because that is where the flavor lies, you are not pairing with the chicken; you are pairing with the sauce.
Marsala can be sweet; however, it can also be dry. Most recipes for this culinary treat use dry Marsala, and some add sherry to the recipe.
To begin this recipe, chicken breast cutlets are lightly dusted in a flour blend and cooked in olive oil until lightly browned. They are then removed and set aside.
Next, you create the sauce for the chicken from the drippings; mushrooms, shallots, thyme, Marsala, cream, and chicken stock.
Briefly: You want a light to medium-body red wine or a full-bodied white wine to pair with chicken marsala.
Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, or Viognier can be paired with Chicken Marsala for a quick reference.
Beaujolais also has a light fruity flavor that will pair nicely with this recipe.
Frappato is another wine with a light-bodied flavor, a cherry red color, and a low tannin level. Its flavor melds with the Marsala instead of overpowering it.
Ingredients Involved in Chicken Marsala (and Marsala wine)
The name of this recipe sounds as if it is a complicated dish. However, it is not.
Chicken Marsala comprises less than a dozen ingredients, can be prepared in one skillet, and can go from concept to the table in less than an hour. If you have the ingredients, that is.
When pairing wine with a recipe with wine (in this case, Marsala wine making up part of the sauce) as an ingredient, pair the wine with the sauce, not the meat, as chicken has a mild flavor.
However, Marsala does not, so the wines you would typically pair with white meat may not go well with the Marsala flavored sauce.
The ingredients of Chicken Marsala include chicken breast fillets, lightly dusted with seasoned flour, that are sautéed in a little olive oil until golden brown. They are then set aside, awaiting a sauce.
More oil and butter are added to the skillet, and the mushrooms are lightly cooked before adding garlic, shallots, and thyme.
After the veggies have cooked a couple of minutes, dry Marsala wine, chicken stock, and cream are added and allowed to thicken for a couple of minutes.
Then the cooked chicken breasts are placed in the sauce for three or four minutes until they are warmed again, taking about five minutes.
Served over mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, or other starch of your choice, with a side dish, this is a meal suited for special occasions. Not because it is hard to prepare, but because you do not want to grow tired of it.
Of course, you can also make this dish with different types of wine, which will keep it from getting boring. Changing the starch you use as a side is also a way to change the recipe and keep it from getting boring.
However, suppose you experiment with your food. In that case, you can prepare your chicken with dry Marsala and sherry, and the dish will have an even deeper flavor.
In that case, your wine pairing will be different than if you use dry Marsala alone. A sweet or savory sauce will call for other wine pairings to suit their flavor profiles.
Can I Serve Sides With Chicken Marsala?
A slice of meat and starch alone is rather dull without another side dish, even with a dish as delicious as Chicken Marsala.
The wine you serve will depend on the flavor of the side dishes you serve, the entree and, most notably, the composition of the sauce.
When a sauce is made with wine, pairings can become complicated.
You can serve chicken Marsala with rice, mashed potatoes, couscous, polenta, or rice. A green salad with flavors accompanying the dish will go well with Marsala and pasta.
However, chicken Marsala and mashed potatoes, steamed young asparagus spears, spinach sautéed with garlic, or a roasted veggie blend will make a perfect side dish.
With this new knowledge, you can now narrow down a wine selection based on the flavor of an entree’s sauce and the side dishes you prepare to accompany it.
What is Marsala wine?
Made in Sicily, Marsala is a fortified wine made near the city of the same name, Marsala.
Marsala has a nutty flavor with brown sugar and dried fruit flavors and can be very sweet or lightly sweet (dry). The color of Marsala ranges from golden to amber and ruby red.
Concisely, fortified wine has had spirits added to it during its fermentation process, which gives it an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 15 to 20 percent.
So, as a wine, it’s potent. Yet, people use Marsala for cooking more than for sipping, and when heated, the alcohol in the wine evaporates.
Although chicken Marsala is made with Marsala wine, it is undoubtedly not the wine that should accompany the meal at the table. Instead, chicken Marsala needs a light to medium-bodied red wine or a robust white wine as a pairing.
Related: Substitutes for Marsala wine.
Top Wines to Pair with Your Chicken Marsala
Several wines pair well with Chicken Marsala. They each have a different quality and give you options when considering the side dishes and the entrée.
Produced from the Gamay grape, it is low in tannins and fruity, with subtle tones of minerals and earth.
Although Beaujolais is a red wine, the lower tannins and moderate acidity make this an excellent wine pairing with Chicken Marsala.
The light fruity flavor will not overwhelm the taste of the sauced chicken cutlets or your palate and will go nicely with asparagus, spinach, and delicate squash that is meaty.
With notes of flowers and honey, the floral tones of Chenin Blanc are an excellent accompaniment to Chicken Marsala. The acidity is medium to high, and the ABV of Chenin Blanc is 12 to 14.5 percent.
You can find Chenin Blanc in sweet and dry varieties and a few that have been aged in oak barrels.
When aged in an oak cask, Chenin Blanc will take on the flavor of Chardonnay and give it notes of lemon curd, nutmeg, popcorn, and butterscotch. These flavors pair well with Chicken Marsala.
Like all wines, the flavor of Chardonnay can vary due to where the grapes are grown. It is a dry white wine, medium to full-bodied with moderate acidity.
The flavors of Chardonnay can be papaya and pineapple, apples, and lemons. The fruity flavor and moderate acidity allow the pairing of Chardonnay with Chicken Marsala.
Made from white grapes, Viognier has intense fruit flavors of apples, apricots, peaches, limestone notes, petunias, and geraniums.
This bouquet of flavors gives Viognier the fruitiness that pairs well with the savory silkiness of Chicken Marsala.
The ABV of Viognier is 13.5 to 15 percent; those with lower ABVs are a lighter wine, while those on the higher end have a bolder flavor.
Either variety should pair well with your chicken Marsala because the base flavors are tropically fruity.
One of the few red wines that pair well with Chicken Marsala, Pinot Noir is a pale red wine.
It has an herbal, floral, fruity flavor, with a note of spiciness. Pinot Noir will take on the added flavors of cloves, vanilla, and black pepper when aged in oak.
Pinot Noir is very acidic, dry, and has 13 to 14 percent ABV. It is medium in tannins and is light to medium-bodied, and its flavor will pair perfectly with your Chicken Marsala.
Available as a white or Rose wine, Grenache Gris leaves an oily feel on the tongue, a characteristic of the grape from which it is made.
It is full-bodied with flavors of apricots and peaches, giving it a taste similar to Viognier.
Grenache Gris is moderately acidic and available in several varieties and colors. They have creamy flavors and, when aged in oak, take on a deeper flavor.
You can try a dry or sweet Grenache Gris with Chicken Marsala, or even the Rose will compliment this recipe nicely.
Another red wine, Frappato, is a light-bodied fruity red wine, which you may think will not pair with your Chicken Marsala, but it will.
Its lightness, which is much like that of Beaujolais, will not fight with the flavors of your recipe.
While the Frappato is fruity, the flavors vary from other red wines. This wine has notes of tart cherries, floral notes, blueberries, and strawberries.
It has moderate tannin levels and is moderately acidic. The ABV of Frappato is 11.5 to 13.5 percent, giving it one of the lowest alcohol contents of the wines on this list.
The mild acidity of this wine, along with its fruity notes, will pair well with Chicken Marsala.
Light to medium-bodied red wines and full-bodied whites will go well with Chicken Marsala. Red wines such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, or a nice Malbec. For a bottle of white wine, Chardonnay or Riesling also pair well with this dish.
Typically made with dry Marsala wine, Chicken Marsala requires a bold flavor to accompany your meal that does not overpower its subtlety of flavors.
Although drinking Marsala with your chicken dish may seem natural, the flavors of drinkable Marsala, which will be sweet against the dryness of the variety we cook with, will drown out the other flavors of your recipe.
Although chicken Marsala is not a complicated recipe, you do not want to ruin it with the wrong wine.
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