Season 17, Episode 15 Recap: How to Make Better Chicken Marsala

Plus, learn how to make a New York City favorite—Rao’s famous lemon chicken—in your home kitchen.

Published Apr. 17, 2017.

This episode of America’s Test Kitchen opens with host Julia Collin Davison discussing the first recipe she ever developed at America’s Test Kitchen: chicken Marsala. “I’m not gonna lie, I was a little nervous back then,” she admits. “I tested that recipe dozens of times, and at the end I was really proud of it.” Host Bridget Lancaster then fondly recalls watching Julia make the recipe on ATK TV 16 years ago, on season two. While she still loves her old recipe, Julia concedes that she doesn’t make it much anymore because the sauce is a little too sweet. So she and Bridget set out to make an updated, more complex version. Later, Adam Ried explains what makes for a good citrus juicer, and finally, Erin McMurrer demonstrates how to cook a New York City favorite, Rao’s famous lemon chicken.

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In this episode, Bridget and Julia figure out how to make a more complex Chicken Marsala. Later, Adam reveals what makes for a good citrus juicer, and finally, Erin demonstrates how to make a New York City favorite—Rao's famous lemon chicken—in the home kitchen.   
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Five Takeaways from the Episode

1. For Sauce that Sticks, Use Gelatin: Unflavored gelatin will help thicken your Marsala sauce, which will help it adhere to the chicken. Bridget’s technical term for this is “clingability.”

2. Chicken Cutlets Don’t Have to Be Unevenly Sized: Traditionally, chicken cutlets are made by cutting a chicken breast in half horizontally. But this always leads to ragged ends and a cutlet that is three times as thick at one end as it is at the opposite. Instead of cutting the breast in half horizontally, cut it crosswise from the top, right about at the middle. Set the thinner half to the side (it’s now ready to cook), and then cut the thicker half in half horizontally as you normally would the entire breast. Now, instead of two ragged, uneven cutlets, you’ve got three clean, even cutlets. And if you’ve got some that are slightly thicker than the others, you can just pound them out a bit until they’re all the same thickness.

3. With Citrus Juicers, Hand Presses Impress: Out of the three types of juicers we tried, handheld presses performed the best. We liked our winning model because it has slots on the bottom of the press that direct the citrus juice in a nice, steady flow while also limiting splatter. Its grip is comfortable, it’s “handsome” (according to Julia), and after pressing the juice from 200 lemons, it showed no signs of wear and tear.

4. You Don’t Need a Salamander to Make Perfect Lemon Chicken at Home: Salamanders are high-output broilers that are used to brown food quickly. They’re also only found in restaurant kitchens. For our Skillet-Roasted Chicken in Lemon Sauce recipe, we wanted chicken parts with crisp, golden-brown skin. But because home broilers aren’t as powerful as a salamander, we had to hack the results. We browned chicken parts skin side down in a traditional skillet for 8 to 10 minutes, then preserved the skin’s crispness by finishing cooking it skin side up and out of the reach of the sauce.

5. Leave the Dark Meat in the Skillet for a Few Extra Minutes: Dark meat takes a little longer to cook than white meat—it must be cooked to a higher temperature, 175 degrees versus 160 for white meat—so leaving the drumsticks and thighs in the pan for an extra three to five minutes, while removing the breasts, helps synchronize the overall cooking time.

Quote of the Week: “We’re wiser, we’re a lot hotter, and our expectations for food have grown as well.” —Bridget Lancaster to Julia Collin Davison, in reference to wanting a more complex Marsala sauce

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