Chicken Francese – An American Dish

If it’s Sunday, it must be chicken . . . Growing up, Sunday Supper usually meant chicken – be it roasted, barbecued, or fried (especially in the summer months), you could bet chicken was on the menu. My parents weren’t “fancy” cooks – home-cooked meals were usually simple. With a house full of children (siblings, cousins and a multitude of extended family), the meals were always “kid friendly”. For us, Sundays involved attending church, then everyone would gather at our house for an early supper. As a cradle Catholic of the pre-Vatican II era, we didn’t eat before Mass, so supper needed to be as early as possible since everyone was starving. Often, we didn’t arrive at Church until late in the morning or early afternoon. I can’t blame my parents for attending a later Mass. You try herding a bunch of kids out the door in their Sunday best at 7:00 am and see how far you get.

As an adult, I strive to keep the Sunday Chicken tradition alive. Traditions are an important part of my life. They keep me grounded and in touch with my roots.

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who loves to plan. I plan menus – sometimes weeks in advance. While we don’t always stick to the plan, having some idea as to what I plan to cook sure makes shopping a whole lot easier.

While preparing my meal planner for the upcoming weeks, I came across a recipe I had not yet tried; Chicken Francese. As a house filled with lovers of chicken cooked in a lemony-buttery sauce, this simple yet elegant dish seemed right up our alley. I wasn’t sure if the origins of this dish were French (as the name seems to suggest – Francese means “in the French manner”) or Northern Italian as the clean simple ingredients seems to indicate. Naturally, I turned to the internet in search of answers. While there has been some debate on the subject, it turns out neither is correct. Chicken Francese is a native of New York – as in Brooklyn, New York. The first documented mention of Chicken Francese appeared in a restaurant review published in the New York Times back in the 1970s. Prior to that publication, the dish simply did not exist in print. There are those who insist the dish is actually older by some twenty years, at least on a local level in Brooklyn. As the story goes, back in the 1950s the Italian eateries of Brooklyn were loosing patrons to their French bistro counterparts as the lighter, buttery sauces of France gained popularity with the masses. To lure customers back, a buttery-lemon sauce was created to be served over fried chicken cutlets. At least that’s how the story goes. So while the creator of the dish may have been Italian, the dish itself was born in America. Another less intriguing reason this dish is considered “American” is because the chicken is floured, dipped in egg and then pan-fried – all American traits in the culinary world. Some argue that all of this “history” very well may be true for the “Chicken” variety, but that the dish itself was actually inspiration by a dish deeply rooted in Northern Italy, made with breaded veal. Call it whatever you like, so long as you call it delicious.

Chicken Francese
3 Chicken Breasts, split lengthwise
1 cup all-purpose flour; for dredging
1 or 2 pinches of garlic powder
1 or 2 sprinklings of paprika
salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup olive oil

Lay chicken breast on a cutting board and split breasts lengthwise to create two thin breasts. Set aside until ready to use.

In a shallow platter, season 1/2 cup of flour with paprika, garlic powder, pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk well to distribute seasoning evenly.

In a wide, flat-bottom bowl or small casserole dish, whisk eggs with water to create an egg-wash.

Heat a large, flat-bottom pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot add 1/4 cup of olive oil and swirl to coat pan. When the oil is hot, dredge chicken cutlet one at a time in the seasoned flour, then dip them into the egg wash coating completely, letting the excess drip off. Dredge one final time to give a nice battered coating to the chicken. Dredge, dip and dredge only enough chicken that will fit into the pan without over crowding it. Work in batches if necessary.

Fry cutlets for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown turning once. Move chicken to a serving platter large enough to hold chicken in a single layer. Place platter into a warm oven and cover with foil to keep warm.

Buttery-Lemon Sauce
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 Lemons (for juicing)
3 tablespoons butter
1 Splash White Wine (slightly less than 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons Wondra (to thicken sauce)

Once all the chicken has been fried, carefully blot pan with paper towels to remove excess oil white leaving the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

Pour chicken broth into the empty pan, bring just to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until broth is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes or so. Scrape bottom of the pan to bring browned bits into the broth.

Add lemon juice and return to a gentle simmer. Whisk in the butter until fully incorporated. Add a splash or so of wine, whisk again.

Thicken sauce with about a tablespoon or so of Wondra, stir/whisk until thickened and smooth.

Remove pan from heat, return chicken to pan. Turn chicken to coat in sauce.

For Serving
1/2 lb Spaghetti Pasta
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Lemon
2-3 Tablespoons Italian parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil. Start pasta at the same time as the chicken cutlets are added to the pan to fry. Cook pasta al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Drain pasta well. While pasta is draining, add butter to the pot used to cook pasta. Return pasta to the pot and pull through butter to coat.

To serve; spread pasta out on serving platter. Lay chicken on top of pasta and pour pan sauce over chicken. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon as desired. Serve immediately.

Tips: Fill large pot with water for pasta and bring to a boil. As water heats, season flour, prepare egg wash and juice lemons. Once skillet is heated for cutlets, begin cooking pasta. While cutlets are frying, chop parsley and slice lemon for garnish. Everything should come together at the same time for serving.


Dijon-Lemon Chicken Vegetable Foil Packs

My husband thinks I’m crazy.  We’ve been married for over thirty years, and in that time I have given him ample reason to think I’m just a little nuts. Recently we made plans for our summer vacation. We’ve decided to return to an old favorite stomping ground – Yellowstone. A few years back, we discovered Rand Creek Ranch, an awesome place to call our home-away-from-home when visiting Yellowstone. We love this place for a lot of reasons. It’s centrally located between Yellowstone’s east gate and Cody, making easy day-trips to either place possible. The cabins, although be it rustic, are super cozy. Imagine all the joys of camping while having your own shower and a comfy bed at night. The ranch is a family owned and operated business and as such is a family-oriented destination. On the property, there’s a catch and release trout pond with fishing gear, horseback riding, and a nice picnic area complete with tables and a big gas grill for your use. Best of all, the owners build a camp fire each night. Everyone gathers around the fire, toasts marshmallows and shares their day’s adventures. Although there is no restaurant on the premises, every morning you will find a breakfast of fresh-baked goodies, fruit and juice waiting on your porch. While the cabins don’t have a real “kitchen”, there is a microwave, coffee-maker and refrigerator. We like to stock the fridge with hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwich fixings. In the mornings, before heading off to the park, we can pack a picnic lunch to take with us. In the evenings, we can grill up a simple supper of burgers or dogs.

This year, I thought I’d expand our grilling suppers to include foil-wrapped meals. In pursuit of different dinner-ideas, I  began to collect foil-pack recipes. Some are strictly for the grill, others are for the oven, while others still can be either. When I told Hubby of my brilliant idea, his response was “Are you crazy?”

This first foil packet is designed for the oven. While it’s not going to make the cut for our vacation suppers, it’s still a keeper. It’s easy to prepare, with very little clean-up. And my guys loved it.

Dijon-Lemon Chicken and Vegetables in Foil
1 lb baby red potatoes, halved or quartered
2 cups baby carrots
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Miracle Whip
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
Zest of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lemon, thinly sliced (Use the same lemon that was zested if you like)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut four sheets of foil large enough to securely wrap the potatoes, carrots and chicken breasts. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, Miracle Whip, mustard, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

In a large zip-lock bag, place potatoes. Drizzle potatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste; then gently toss to combine. Place bag (open) in the microwave and par-cook potatoes for about 8-10 minutes.

Using a large serving spoon, divide potatoes into 4 equal portions and place in the center of each foil in a single layer. Scatter a handful of carrots around potatoes.

Cut each breast in half, creating four smaller breasts. Spoon some of the mustard mixture on top of each breast. Using your fingers, work the mustard mixture onto both sides of the chicken, turning chicken as needed. Top each foil pack of vegetables with one breast. Place a slice of lemon on top of the breast.
Bring foil up over the chicken, then fold down the top to firmly seal. Fold the sides of the foil over the chicken, covering completely and sealing the packets closed.

Place foil packets in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place into oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. (After 25 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary, bake longer, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, checking every 5 minutes).

To serve, place packets on individual plates and let your diners unwrap their supper. A nice salad would round out the meal beautifully.


For those interested, here’s a link to the ranch:

French Country Forty-Clove Garlic Chicken

I’m thinking ahead to Sunday . . .

If it’s Sunday, it’s gotta be chicken! Sunday is just around the corner, and already my mouth is watering in anticipation.

Continue reading “French Country Forty-Clove Garlic Chicken”

Valentine’s Day: Chicken Marsala and A Dash of Romance

Valentine’s Day 2018 poses some major problems for Catholics. Not since 1945 has Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fallen on the same day. For those of you not familiar with Catholic teachings, Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten Season; a somber day of fasting and abstinence. Simply put, by today’s rules, fasting means small meals and abstinence means “no meat”.  Somber Days are not days for celebration, indulgence and chocolates. A real killer to all the romance of a fancy dinner, champagne and caviar, wouldn’t you say?

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day: Chicken Marsala and A Dash of Romance”

Hamburger Helper Style Chili-Cheese Macaroni

Some call it comfort food; others convenient; while others simply have that warm nostalgic feeling whenever they think of Hamburger Helper – the meal in a box from the early ’70s.  The problem with Hamburger Helper is that its packed with artificial “stuff”. No one wants to feed their family “stuff”. Still, the convenience of it all – some milk and ground meat was all you needed to add to the stuff in the box.  With this recipe, you can have that same convenience, minus the box and the “stuff” inside.

Continue reading “Hamburger Helper Style Chili-Cheese Macaroni”

Autumn Minestrone with Tortellini Pasta

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I just love the word Autumn. It makes me feel all warm and cozy inside, much like a good bowl of soup. The truth is, Minestrone is awesome no matter the season. There is a wonderful little place in town, Espanol Restaurant, that starts each meal with a big bowl of Minestrone Soup served family style. The price of your meal includes soup, salad and beverage (usually coffee). Yes, it’s a strange name for an Italian Restaurant – but that’s a story for another day. Although Espanol has been in business since 1923, it began serving authentic Italian dishes (including their awesome Minestrone) in 1959. Sometimes I like to pop in for the soup alone – it’s that good. My guys order the entrees, while I eat all the soup they can serve up. In my humble opinion, there is no such thing as too much soup. I could eat hot soups every day in the fall and winter and cold soups the rest of the year. However; Hubby is not a big soup eater – when offered soup or salad, he usually opts for the salad. Kiddo likes cream based soups and chicken soups so long as they aren’t too heavy in vegetables. I adore just about every kind of soup, except borscht or cabbage. I don’t mind a little cabbage in the soup as a minor player. As for borscht – beets are not my thing, no matter how you fix them.

Hands down, a good Minestrone Soup ranks right up there among my all-time favorite soups. But then, I’m a huge fan of all things Italian. The first time Dad had Minestrone Soup was recently when we all had lunch together at Espanol. Dad asked what Minestrone was, to which my brother-in-law responded “Italian for anything leftover in the kitchen.” Food is not something you can joke about with Dad – go too far and he won’t even try it. I find it’s best not to answer his questions directly, but simply encourage him to give it a try. “It’s Italian vegetable soup, Dad. You’ll like it.” And he did.

Traditionally speaking, there is no such thing as a traditional Minestrone Soup. The dish varies from region to region and season to season. Although my brother-in-law said it jokingly, Minestrone was in fact born of leftovers. No one set out to create Minestrone, it was a means of using whatever was left to create a peasant dish that did not let vegetables go to waste. Minestrone has been around since before there was a Roman Empire – and that’s a very long time. What we now know as Minestrone Soup, with a variety of vegetables and usually including some form of pasta, has been around since about 2 BC, when the Romans conquered Italy. It wasn’t long before the Romans monopolized all means of commerce and a vast network of roads. This control (all roads lead to Rome) opened the floodgates of goods to Rome. With this came a broadened available seasonal foods throughout the empire. And so it was that Minestrone grew to include a wider variety of  vegetables and a meat based broth, more closely resembling the soup we know today.

As I begin this post, my pot of Minestrone soup is simmering in the next room. The smells are incredible – and it has my mouth to watering. What a great end to a wet weekend!

Autumn Minestrone with Tortellini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup of kale, chopped
5 small or 2 large gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-15 ounce can Fire-Roasted Italian tomatoes
4 cups beef stock
Fresh Pepper to taste
Cyprus Sea Salt flakes to taste*
15 ounces Cannelloni Beans
1 package Cheese Tortellini

* Cyprus Seas Salt flakes are known for their large pyramid shaped crystals. Light and fluffy with the mild taste characteristic of Mediterranean salts. If you don’t have Cyprus Sea Salt flakes, coarse sea salt is fine.

Use a fine grater to grate the garlic, set aside. Finely chop rosemary, set aside. (If you have small cups, this works really well to hold the garlic and rosemary until ready to add to the soup).

Chop kale and set aside. Peel and chop potatoes. Cover potatoes with cold water until ready to use.

Cut onions, carrots, celery and zucchini into nice chunks. Set aside.

In a 12-inch heavy bottom sautée pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, carrots, celery, zucchini and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the grated garlic and rosemary, cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the garlic from burning and becoming bitter. Transfer contents of sautée pan to a large soup stock pot.

Drain potatoes, add to the now empty sautée pan. Add kale and Italian Tomatoes including liquid. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and cook until the kale is wilted, about 5 or 6 minutes. Empty potato mixture into stock pot.

Add the beef stock and fresh ground pepper to stock pot. Stir well and taste. Add salt as needed. Bring to a steady simmer and cook for about 25-30 minutes until potatoes are tender. While soup simmers, drain beans and set aside.

Add tortellini and beans, return to a low boil and continue to cook for about 6 minutes, until pasta and beans are nicely warmed.

Taste and adjust seasonings. If not salty enough, add a pinch or so of salt.

Serve hot with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese.