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Give Chicken Cutlets Deep Flavor in a Flash

Fine Cooking Issue 42
Photo: Scott Phillips
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Chicken Marsala—a classic chicken cutlet preparation—is a main dish that’s ready literally in minutes. And while I’ve always liked chicken Marsala well enough—the cutlets get coated lightly with flour, sautéed, and the pan is deglazed with Marsala wine to make a sauce—it sometimes feels a little too one-­dimensional. To jazz up this classic dish, I’ve added pancetta and a little cream. Both are quick additions, but they result in a richer, more deeply flavored dish.

You can buy packaged skinless, boneless chicken breasts that are already sliced very thin. If you don’t see any in the butcher’s case, ask the butcher to slice the chicken breasts for you; I often ask at supermarkets, and it’s never been a problem. (Of course, you can slice the chicken breasts yourself, but it will take you a few minutes.)

Pancetta is Italian bacon that, unlike American bacon, is not smoked. You used to have to go to an Italian deli or a specialty food store to find pancetta, but now it’s available in most supermarket delis. If you don’t see it, ask for it. I like to buy a thick slice and dice it myself, but sometimes you’ll find already packaged pancetta sliced very thin. That will work fine, too, and it will cook even faster.

After frying the pancetta, reserve the fat to cook the chicken breasts in—another flavor boost. And don’t forget to season the chicken before you flour it. Because the pancetta adds its own salty flavor, go light on the salt, but use ample freshly ground black pepper.

For the quickest dinner, serve the chicken with sautéed spinach and crusty bread. It’s also great with mashed potatoes and green beans blanched and then sautéed until browned in spots.


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