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Marsala Questions

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I am about to make chicken marsala at home and therefore must purchase marsala. First of all, what would happen if I used regular white wine instead?
Second, what purpose does marsala serve besides making chicken marsala? What is marsala? Is it only used for cooking? If I want to serve it to drink, should it be chilled, room temp? Should I bother buying a good brand and if so what is a good brand? If I am only going to use it to cook, I will just get the cheapest one.

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  1. It's a fortified wine from the Marsala region of Sicily. There are three colours (golden, amber and red), various levels of sweetness and five classifications based on barrel aging. It's usually drunk chilled, the drier wines as an aperitif, the sweeter wines as or with dessert.

    For cooking purposes, you're best off looking for a dry (*secco*) amber (*ambra*). Sauces are a classic use (veal scallops and chicken) as is zabaglione.

    1. Marsala has a distinctive baked, oxidized, "rancio" quality. The best for cooking or drinking is marsala vergine, which you might find in a better Italian deli. Of the lesser "fine dry" marsalas you're most likely to find, I'd recommend Pellegrino, Florio, or Columbo, in that order.

      American and Australian "marsalas" are inferior imitations. Under no circumstances use marsala all'uovo, which is a sort of bottled eggnog.

      If you can't find or aren't willing to pay for good marsala, dry sherry is a better substitute than white wine.

      1. Marsala is the name for a wine produced in the region surrounding the Italian city of Marsala in Sicily. The Saracens gave it its present name "Marsala" which is deriving from the Arab "Marsa Allah" (port of Allah)

        Marsala wine was traditionally served as an aperitif between the first and second courses of a meal.

        Marsala wine is frequently used in cooking. A typical Marsala sauce, for example, involves reducing the wine almost to a syrup with onions or shallots, then adding mushrooms and herbs. The most popular Marsala recipe is chicken Marsala, in which flour-coated pounded chicken breast halves are braised in a mixture of Marsala, butter, olive oil, mushrooms, and spices.

        I like Lombardo Dry Marsala for cooking.

        1. I agree with carswell...you want a dry Marsala...I've seen sweet Marsalas and dry Marsalas sold here. Marsalas do have a distictive flavor; I would not substitute here.