Chicken Francese – An American Dish

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.

4 thoughts on “Chicken Francese – An American Dish

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s