Tonight I made one of Win's favorite dishes: chicken francese. This is a light chicken dish with the robust flavor of fresh lemons. There are many versions of this dish out there, but my favorite comes from Arthur Schwartz. Schwartz is a newspaper food editor, restaurant critic, and host of a daily food talk show in the New York area. When I was growing up, my Mom would often listen to Arthur Schwartz on the radio (WOR 710 AM for those of you from the New York area) and I got the biggest kick out of his classic New York style and delivery. So about five years ago when I went searching for a delicious chicken francese recipe, I knew I had to go with Schwartz's because of sheer nostalgia and because I usually trust his guidance when it comes to food.
I adjust my recipe a bit from Schwartz's original, and I've noted those changes below.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons dry white vermouth (note: I always just use white wine and then serve that same wine with the dinner)
6 tablespoons chicken broth
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Note well: Be sure to have all of your ingredients measured out and lined up before starting to cook. You will have to make the chicken in two batches of two cutlets each, so the frying fats and the sauce ingredients will be used half at a time. Before beginning, put the oven on 200 degrees so you will have a warm oven to keep the first batch of two cutlets warm while cooking the second two.
Pound the chicken breasts until about 1/3 of an inch thick. Season well with salt and pepper.
Place some flour on a dinner plate or piece of waxed paper.
Beat the eggs with a fork in a wide, shallow bowl or a deep plate with a rim.
Dredge two chicken breasts on both sides in the flour, coating heavily by pressing on it. Then pass the breasts through the egg, making sure they are thoroughly coated.
Just before placing the breasts in the hot oil, dredge them in the flour again, again coating heavily.
In a 10-inch skillet, over medium-high to high heat, heat the oil and the butter together until sizzling. Place the coated breasts in the pan and fry for about two minutes or slightly longer per side, until the batter is browned and the cutlets are just done through. If the fat in the pan starts smoking before the cutlets are done, turn down the heat slightly and add just a touch more oil. Do not let the fat burn or, for that matter, the flour that has migrated into it.
As the cutlets are done, (two fit easily in a 10-inch skillet), remove to serving platter and keep warm while making the sauce.
Immediately add the vermouth, chicken broth, and lemon juice to the pan. Let boil over high heat for about a minute, until reduced by about half and slightly thickened. It will be brown.
Pour the sauce into a cup and set aside while repeating the whole procedure with the remaining cutlets and ingredients.
When you have made the second sauce, add the first to it, in the skillet, to reheat it. Pour the sauce over the cutlets, garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.
We love this dish and I hope you will too. I've been making it for about five years now and over time have adjusted parts of the recipe and process. Here are some adjustments that I have made:
1. As indicated in the ingredients list above, I always use white wine instead of vermouth. The reason behind this is simple: I always have a nice white in the house, but I don't always have vermouth. Wine works just as well and then we serve the opened white wine with dinner.
2. I always double the sauce recipe. Win and I feel the sauce is key to this dish and we always like to have more. Therefore, I always double the amounts of wine, chicken broth, and lemon juice used. There is no harm in having this delicious, lemony sauce in abundance, trust me.
3. While I still do cook the chicken cutlets in two batches, I've stopped cooking the sauce in two batches. I've found that this step is unnecessary and instead I cook the first two cutlets, remove them and keep them warm, then cook the second two cutlets, then cook the sauce all in one batch. I used to cook the sauce in two parts, but that just seems to add an extra I don't need.
Tonight, I served the chicken francese with a special wine my brother Mike sent us. It's a 2002 Chardonnay called Viandante del Cielo. This wine is the product of a joint venture between George Lucas (famous director, most known for the "Star Wars" trilogy) and Francis Ford Coppola (famous director, most known for "The Godfather"). The grapes come from Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas' estate, and the wine was bottled by the Niebaum-Coppola winery. Mike is a filmmaker and thus he had a special interest in this wine. When he bought a few bottles for himself, he kindly had one shipped to us too. What a good guy! This wine is delicious and it worked well with the chicken francese.
While I'm discussing wine, I thought I'd share a note with you about the corkscrew that changed my life. For years, I was a nervous wine opener. I'd always have Win open bottles for us at home and at social events would pray that I wasn't called upon to do the uncorking honors. All that changed when we got the Kurketrekker Corkscrew. This gadget is amazing and it pulls a cork out smoothly and easily every time. I highly recommend it for its ease of use and consistent effective performance.
Dinner was delicious and we enjoyed the wine very much. Best of all, there's some left over, so we'll have this treat again another night this week.