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Chicken Française is chicken cutlet blanketed in a decadent sauce of fresh lemon that is offset with a good dry white wine, and a generous dollop of sweet cream butter. The sauce is slowly simmered until it reduces by half to intensify and enhance the star of the ingredient list, the lemon. I have been preparing Chicken Française for over twenty years to the accolades of family and friends. 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.
Française, or ‘prepared in the French manner,’ has recently become popular at a local Italian eatery here in Charleston, donning the top of the specials list on Saturday nights. Oddly enough, the owner and chef is originally from my neck of the woods in New Jersey, so his cooking is basically my cooking. In this instance, he prepares Française with fresh local shrimp and Monk Fish. I had occasion to order it recently and although I prefer my sauce a bit thicker than this was, it did not disappoint. Pondering the method I use to prepare Française, I knew it was time to impart that with NEAs readers for some kitchen experimenting in your home.
I serve it so often mainly because of its practicability during busy weeknights, and because it gives the impression of being a intricate dish that comes together with minimal time, and with the humblest of ingredients. It’s just impressive.
Ingredients for Chicken Française
For the Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to 1/4″ thickness (or 6-8 chicken cutlets)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk or light cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the Sauce
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup minced sweet onion such as Vidalia
2 – 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 juicy lemons)
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
minced fresh parsley for garnish
1 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 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. 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.
Cook your pasta, if using. Drain.
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.
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.
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