If you’ve never been to Rochester, you’ve probably never heard of Chicken French. It’s not like we have a large French population. I believe it refers to the light egg batter like in French toast. But French Chicken doesn't have the same ring to it. You’ll mostly see Chicken French as a classic Italian favorite in Rochester’s local mid-fine dining restaurants.
Chicken French consists of a flattened and lightly egg-battered chicken breast, served over potatoes, rice or macaroni (I prefer al dente linguine), smothered in a rich yet light sherry-lemon-garlic sauce. It’s wonderful. If you need some classic Rochester comfort-fare, it doesn’t get more Rochester than Chicken French. I mean, Garbage Plates are up there, but that’s a different recipe…
Why is this recipe especially awesome?
This recipe relies on its ingredients for its flavor instead of sugar. That’s what makes it authentic. Bottom line: This is the sherry and lemon show, folks. A lot of other recipes call for a sweet wine sauce with subtle notes of sherry and lemon. No. Nope. Wrong.
You want this to taste decadent, bold, fancy. Call out the signature flavor. Sugar compromises so many classic recipes by replacing key ingredients, all for what, convenience? I was shocked by how many Chicken French recipes call for sugar! But then I remembered they put sugar in everything now, to give it that broad “yeah, this tastes like food” taste. Also sugar is a lot cheaper than a nice dry sherry. Don’t put sugar in your Chicken French. Just don’t.
So yeah, this recipe will cost more a bit more to make than some other recipes out there – you’ll see other recipes use like 1/4 cup of sherry and a tablespoon of sugar. It hurts my soul. It’s not worth it. When you do it right, the sherry provides all the sweet you need in this dish, while keeping it light and complex. Instead of a 1/4 cup of sherry and a tablespoon of sugar, we’re using 2 cups of sherry. And not “cooking wine.” Cooking wine is a diluted and salted version of its basic version. Again, I can’t stress this enough: Make your food taste like what it’s supposed to taste like! We want unique distinguishable flavors, not a homogenized neutral tastes-like-everything sugar sauce. This goes for all dishes: When you compromise the ingredients, you compromise the final product.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup butter
4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups dry sherry
2 cups of chicken stock. I use Better Than Bouillon base, pretty much across the board. It’s easy and tastes great.
A couple lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice – fresh squeezed is always the best. A lot of bottled lemon juices have salt and/or sugar.
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 broccoli crown
Flatten chicken breasts. This is exactly what it sounds like. Lay the raw breasts on a flat surface and cover them with parchment or wax paper or a towel – something you don’t mind getting raw chicken on. Then use weight to smush the breasts flat. You can use your hands, a meat tenderizer, a hammer… You don’t wanna destroy the thing, you just wanna flatten it out a bit – this helps evenly cook the breast and creates more surface area to soak in the delicious sauce.
Mix flour, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Beat two eggs in a separate bowl, stirring in the parmesan cheese.
Put the olive oil in a pan or skillet – I use my cast iron skillet – turn that on to medium heat.
Coat the chicken breasts with egg.
Coat the chicken in the flour.
Coat the chicken with egg again.
Once the oil is hot, lay those egg-battered chicken breasts in.
Cook until the exterior of the chicken turns a light and poofy golden brown. This usually takes about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on heat, pan, and thickness of chicken breast.
Don’t drain the pan! Those remnants play a large part in flavoring our sauce.
After you lightly brown the chicken on each side, put the chicken somewhere else while we make the sauce. Use the same pan if you want.
Turn the heat to medium-low.
Add the butter.
Stir in chicken stock.
Add the lemon juice.
Simmer this for five minutes to thicken. It only needs to thicken a little. You can always go back and use corn starch if you want.
The Magic Part
Gently lay the battered chicken breasts into the simmering sauce
Cut a lemon into thin, round slices and put them on the chicken breasts.
Add the chopped broccoli. I like the texture and color of al dente broccoli. This also helps keep its broccoli flavor, instead of tasting exclusively like sauce.
Simmer for 15 minutes or until the chicken cooks all the way through. If you use a cast iron pan, you can just throw it in the oven at 350 for the 15 minutes.
Serve the Chicken French over mashed potatoes, rice, or my favorite – al dente linguine.
Bring the sauce to a quick boil, then remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh parsley.
Apply gratuitous ladles to each dish.
Lightly spritz each dish with your remaining lemon.
Serve with parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.