Chicken Française, An Italian-American Signature Dish
My Chicken Francaise recipe is the pinnacle of main dish American chicken dishes in my repertoire, boasting big juicy chicken breasts which I pound into chicken cutlets.
After a brief tryst with a seasoned flour mixture, it’s dipped into an egg batter and pan sautéed until golden, similar to a basic method for Chicken Piccata. The lemon sauce is decadent and easy if you are a beginner home chef.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
What is Chicken Francaise?
Chicken Française is chicken cutlet blanketed in a decadent sauce of fresh lemon. It is offset with a good dry white wine, and a generous knob of sweet cream butter.
Francaise meaning “French” in Italian, doesn’t mean this dish is French or Italian. In fact, it’s neither! Creamy Chicken Française sometimes spelled Chicken Francese, is an Italian-American dish. Chicken French as it is known in upstate New York where it was popularized, is a fast sautéed chicken dish that uses three main ingredients to include lemon, white wine, and butter.
When Italian immigrants arrived in upstate New York, they brought their recipes with them. Today, and despite being such a well-known dish in Italian-American culture, francaise or francese is not a classical dish, nor a classic French mother sauce. There are no written recipes that mark the origin of this dish. What can be documented is the expression on guests faces as you slowly spoon sauce over chicken while they anxiously await their plates.
Chicken Française, An Italian-American Signature Dish
Lemon, white wine, and butter. The beauty of the finished dish and the simplicity of its ingredients are what make this method Chicken Française truly shine. The silky sauce is simmered until it reduces by half.
This step intensifies the star flavor of the ingredient list, the lemon. I have been preparing Chicken Française for over twenty years, and nobody in this family has ever tired of it…
To accompany this melt in your mouth magic. I cook up angel hair pasta and twirl it in the sauce to capture the flavors and lightly swathe the strands of pasta. Together with the chicken, this is a complete meal.
I serve it so often mainly because of its practicability on busy weeknights. Well, that and because it gives the impression of being a intricate dish. It’s impressive and it earns me kudos with the family.
Nobody in this house is any the wiser that comes together in almost no time at all, and with the most humdrum of ingredients. And I love that I can lay claim to my Italian chicken being all American!
Chicken Française Recipe Ingredients
For the chicken cutlets:
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- light cream
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- unsalted butter
- extra virgin olive oil
For the white wine lemon sauce:
- unsalted butter
- Vidalia or other sweet onion
- all purpose flour
- dry white wine
- lemon juice and lemon zest
- chicken stock
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- fresh parsley
- fresh lemon slices
Optional for table service:
- Parmesan cheese
Is It Chicken Francese Or Chicken Francaise?
So if you absolutely LOVE this dish and are also planning to visit Italy, the term FRANCESE or FRANCAISE will not be found on a menu referring to this dish. Seriously. Nowhere.
That is because this dish evolved from traditional veal or eggplant cooked indorato-style meaning ‘with a light lemon and wine sauce.’ Immigrants to settle what is now upstate New York brought many food customs and dishes with them.
The only difference? Well, in this recipe, the veal was swapped out for a more readily available ingredient in the day, the chicken.
And as for the spelling, well that is up for debate, too. We absolutely know this is an Italian-American dish. The spelling of the word ‘French’ in Italian is ‘Francese,’ so this is likely the intended spelling.
Why am I going with Française? Because THIS is the way I recognize the dish every time I order it from a menu. Honestly, whoever knows which is correct? Maybe both, maybe neither…
How To Make Chicken Française?
This is a text book sauté if ever there was. Chicken Francaise is the single BEST thing to make with chicken breasts…and it’s EASY!
For me, prepping all of my ingredients before even touching a knob on my stove is key. And if you are like me and want to keep things neat while keeping things moving, clear your counter for enough room to set up an assembly line.
I use pie plates for dipping and dredging because they’re wide enough so as not to spill my ingredients out, yet shallow enough for me to get my hands in there and dirty without compromising the coat.
And if I failed to mention it earlier, the ‘coat’ I am referring to is the egg and flour dredge which makes this chicken so luxurious. Don’t worry, we’re getting there…
A large skillet is also necessary. Use a non-stick or use a cast iron. I prefer a large non-stick because it enables me to preserve the coating on the chicken by sliding it around as opposed to more ‘tong action’ than is necessary. That right there is cooking humor, folks, lol 🙂
…oh my yum
But to answer the question of how to make Chicken Française…it goes something like this…a dredge in seasoned flour, a dip in the egg, another dredge in the flour, and a quick sauté in a screaming hot skillet. I go half butter and half olive oil, however you could go all butter if you’re a purist.
As for the wine and lemon-butter sauce, well that is prepared while the chicken rests. It’s comprised of chopped sweet onion which cooks together with some flour to create a roux.
Wine, chicken broth, butter, lemon juice, and lemon slices flavor the sauce which reduces by half before being married with the cutlets. The reduction adds an intensity like no other.
To describe this? Silky, lightly lemon, pungency from the wine…sheer bliss if you are a lover of savory chicken recipes.
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
This recipe is so straightforward and delicious that add-ins are not necessary. I have however used the following to kick things up and make this dish not entirely average.
I am a sucker for dipping bread. Oh hell, if I’m honest, MOPPING SAUCE WITH BREAD! I’ll have the plate looking like it was never used by the time my bread is finished Zamboni-ing around the plate.
In an effort to seriously season the sauce, I have added several to many cloves of minced garlic as well as a teaspoon or two of anchovy paste which would be typical of this same dish using veal.
A great trick if you have the time is to cook the lemon slices on both sides in brown butter before adding BOTH the lemon slices and the brown butter to the sauce. It’s absolutely over the top.
What To Serve With Chicken Française?
I go old school and traditional and serve pasta. Angel hair to be exact, every time. This dish is hearty. And is pasta isn’t your jam, a gorgeous whipped potato would cradle the sauce nicely.
A sherried and creamy spaghetti squash is a great compliment, offering the right amount of sweet to balance the pungent lemon. Plus it’s a darn delicious carb right out of the garden, so what’s not to embrace?
What To Drink With Chicken Française?
I love a crisp dry or slightly off-dry Riesling with Chicken Francaise. Aromatics in the wine compliment the predominant flavor of lemon in the pan sauce.
Other aromatic whites also work well, for example Italian Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer from Alsace or a lovely vibrant New Zealand Sauvignon. If I had to choose a fallback to white, a fruity Chilean rose would be my choice.
What Are Some Tips For Making Chicken Française?
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook. This allows the chicken to cook evenly.
- Always wash your hands well after handling raw chicken. This should be done between steps to avoid cross-contamination.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. It causes the chicken to steam instead of fry and the coating will become soggy. It’s better to fry in batches.
Can Chicken Française Be Made Ahead?
The chicken can be coated and refrigerated on a wire rack atop a baking sheet up to four hours ahead of time. Remove from the fridge 20 minutes before sautéing.
I have also prepared the lemon sauce ahead with great success. It may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Can Chicken Française Leftovers Be Re-heated?
Yes! Prepare the cutlets and sauce as written and then re-eat the cutlets in a low-temp oven of 250 degrees F and gently re-heat the sauce in a saucepan on the stove.
Can You Freeze Chicken Française?
The cooked cutlets can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze the cutlets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until firm, about 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer bag with parchment squares between each cutlet. Defrost in the refrigerator before re-heating.
Freeze the lemon sauce separately in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before re-heating.
- large non-stick skillet
Ingredients for Chicken Française
for the chicken
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts each breast sliced in half lengthwise, pounded to 1/4" thickness
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons light cream or milk
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
for the lemon butter sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1/4 cup Vidalia onion chopped, or other sweet onion
- 2 – 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup lemon juice fresh squeezed, about 2 juicy lemons
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 cups chicken broth I am using homemade chicken stock
- Kosher salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- parsley fresh, chopped
- 1 large lemon sliced, about 6 to 8 thin slices
- In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk. A pie plate works well for this. Set aside. Combine the salt, pepper and flour in a separate shallow bowl and place next to the egg mixture. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Using tongs, dredge the chicken cutlets in flour shaking off the excess. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture allowing the extra egg to drip back into the bowl. Transfer to the flour once again, turning to coat. Shake off the extra flour and place in the hot skillet.
- Cook 2 or 3 cutlets at a time, turning once, until the chicken is well browned, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to the prepared paper-towel lined baking sheet. Repeat, adding more butter and olive oil if needed until all chicken is cooked. Set chicken aside. Discard the grease and wipe out the skillet with clean paper towels.
- Add 3 tablespoons butter to the now empty skillet over medium heat.
- Toss in the minced onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, and chicken broth. Increase the temperature to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until it is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove the onions. Some small bits of zest may remain after you've passed the sauce through the sieve, and this is okay. Return the sauce to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Add the last tablespoon of butter to the sauce. Stir gently until melted. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. The lemon flavor will be intense.
- Add the lemon slices to the sauce and then add the chicken cutlets back to the pan atop the lemon slices. Heat gently for 4 to 5 minutes, turning once, or until heated through.
Cook your pasta, if using. Drain.
To Plate This Dish
- Remove the cutlets and the lemon slices from the sauce and set aside. Using tongs, take about half of the cooked pasta and add it to the sauce. Twirl the pasta in the sauce taking care to coat it well. Toss the coated pasta with the remaining pasta in a serving bowl. Remember, the sauce is lemon intense, so by coating only half and tossing with the remainder, you will have a nice flavor without it being overpowering or drippy.
- Add the chicken to the serving bowl atop the pasta. Top the chicken with the sautéed lemon slices and garnish with minced parsley. Pour any remaining sauce in a sauce boat for serving at the table. Serve immediately.
If You Like This Recipe…
…you might also like:
The Original Chicken Arthur Avenue
Crispy Chicken with Herbed Carolina Gold Rice & Scratch Pan Gravy
We all just loved your Chicken-Francaise, it is featured on Full Plate Thursday 544 this week. I just pinned your post to our special features board and thanks so much for sharing it with us. Hope to see you again real soon!
Miz Helen, thank you is just not enough when I read your lovely messages! I’d like to join the party which just opened – Dee keeps me posted 😉 xo
Chicken Francaise is one of my favorites – and your version looks delicious! Pinned!
Shelley, isn’t this such a Jersey thing??? I can’t help myself. Some days, I just want what we eat!!!
OMG!!! What a fantastic recipe!!! Followed it to a tee, with the exception of Plating. We just ate straight from the pan. My wife wife was so impressed!!!
Michael, not too many dudes comment on recipes on NEA, so your comment is WELL RECEIVED!!! THANK YOU! And, if you both really do enjoy cooking together, go with my recipe for the Original Chicken Arthur Avenue next time – TRUST ME 😉
Oh my gosh, absolutely ONE OF THE BEST RECIPES I have ever prepared in my kitchen! I will make this again and again and am so thankful for your step by steps, as I am a new cook!
This is the best Chicken French recipe out there!
Glenn, I may be biased, but I think so, too! x – Jenny
This is one of the best recipes I have stumbled upon. The lemon in the sauce is just perfect. Thank you! I can’t wait to try more recipes.
Sacha, this is kind of you to say and to take the time to say it – thank you! Chicken Francaise may not be Southern, but it is all American and it’s among my faves! Can’t wait to know how you get on with other recipes should you try more 🙂 Jenny
Everything was delicious until I put the lemon slices in the sauce and placed the chicken on top. The lemon rinds turned the sauce bitter!! I was so upset. I will try again but will not place the slices in. Has anyone else has this issue?
Jaimee, say it isn’t so! Lemon can absolutely be a potent ingredient, but a couple of hacks I’ve learned may be helpful to you for next time. First, scrub the lemon with a potato or vegetable scrubber under tepid water. This removes any chemicals potentially used to preserve the life of the fruit. Next, reduce the amount of lemon zest to 1 1/2 teaspoons and forgo adding the lemon slices to the sauce.
Lemon is not bitter to everyone. It specifically has to do with us, medications we take which affect our sense of taste and smell, and even what else we are consuming at the time we are consuming the lemon. I would love to know your result if you should venture to try this dish again. I promise it really is both a stunning dish and a delicious one! x – Jenny
I see the ingredient list at the top has Chicken Stock and the ingredient list lower down says Chicken Broth. Which one is it?
Nick, thank you for requesting clarification on this; I am a HUGE proponent of homemade STOCKS (stock is made with bones) so encourage you to use stock over and above broth in just about every recipe. If, however, you do not have homemade stock on hand, use chicken broth as a substitute. Please let me know how you enjoy the recipe 🙂 Jenny
What about store bought stock? Is that preferable to broth?
I feel like you could purchase a nice stock IF you wanted to, but not if it’s price exceeds reason. Remember that the lemon is the primary flavor profile in the end. Do however make sure whatever you end up using is full fat, as that richness is what you’re after.
Also, I’d go the 1 tablespoon of EVOO adding additional if you have to re-coat the skillet with additional batches of chicken. Of course, an extra tablespoon of EVOO is not going to alter the final dish dramatically.
Also, in the lower ingredients section it says 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil however in the directions it says to heat two tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet.
Best recipe I have found for this dish. Always my “go-to” for company meals!
Joann, you’ve made my day! Thank you for this – I agree whole heartedly, but then I am surely biased 😉 x – Jenny