Friday, July 23, 2010

Rochester's Famous "Chicken French" - Spoiler Alert: Only Half the Name is Correct!

Chicken French has everything I love in a recipe. It's delicious and easy, frugal, yet fancy, and everyone loves it. Better yet, it has a vague, confusing history and completely preposterous name.

This not-French recipe hails from the Rochester area of New York State, where it's a staple on virtually every Italian-American restaurant menu. It's something of a mystery why this recipe would have exploded in popularity in this one city in particular, but that's exactly what happened.

The origins of the recipe go something like this. Italian cooks in northern Italy have a sautéed veal dish called vitello francese, which uses a wine/lemon/butter pan sauce similar to ones used in France. The recipe comes to New York City with the first wave of Italian-American immigrants, where it becomes known by the locals as "Veal French."

Eventually, the recipe migrates to Rochester's large Italian-American community, where chicken is substituted for the more expensive and harder to find veal. The rest, as they say, is history – delicious, tender, moist, buttery history.

Since I'm from the Rochester, NY area, it's a little surprising I haven’t done this one already. Thankfully, a wonderful dinner at my Aunt Joyce's on a recent trip home caused me to realize I hadn’t yet immortalized this hometown favorite. I really hope you give it a try. Enjoy!




Ingredients for about 4-6 portions:
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 eggs, plus 2 tablespoon milk, beaten
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
cayenne to taste
2 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon butter for sautéing

For the sauce:
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup good white wine or dry sherry
1 cup vegetable broth or chicken stock
4 tablespoon cold butter, cut in cubes
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

41 comments:

Spoon Gouge said...

Bravo! Nice job! Just like Whitey would do it. Strangely, a lot of chef's who make this outside of Rochester and a breadcrumb layer afterwards.
Now I need to make this. maybe not today because it's a bit muggy out.
Thanks for the recipe!
Pete

Hollis K. Lee said...

This is a beautiful plate. I will give it a shot.

bryan-in-greece said...

I am going to be making this for my wife and mother-in-law tomorrow. It looks delicious - nice and light, ideal for lunch on the balcony on a hot day...

Jake said...

as another SF resident who grew up in WNY, I never knew Rochester had its own food local cuisine beyond the Garbage Plate. I'm looking forward to seeing that as a video recipe some day!

Amy Lynn said...

Hi Chef John!

Does the cayenne make it spicy at all? My Midwestern palated hubby has an aversion to the taste of cayenne.

Chef John said...

it does gives it a little heat. You could leave it out, but personally I think it would be easier to get a new husband.

Anonymous said...

Chef John,

Any sub to the dry sherry or white wine that is non-alcoholic?

Thanks!

Amy Lynn said...

LOL!

Chef John said...

you can leave out the wine, and juts add a little extra lemon and broth.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John, is there a technique to cut chicken breast (like a butterfly or similar) to make a thick breast into scallopini or is pounding the only way to go?

Great video I really want to try this! Thank You!

CK said...

I just love your blog and every video you made. And you are so funny sometimes really make me laugh a lot!

theunappreciatedbaker said...

My brother is marrying a girl from Rochester! I will have to make this for her.

KrisD said...

My friend is from Rochester, but his mom grew up in Dutch Town, so he's never had this...but he is totally stoked for me to make this for him soon!!

Amy Lynn said...

Made this last night. It was fantastic. Except for the fact where I almost started a fire, forgetting to turn the flame off before the lemon juice went in.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to have starch all the time, but some yummy, crusty bread to slather up the delicious sauce would be terrific!

Jamie said...

Question for Chef John: Can I substitue Lactaid for milk? Would that make the taste totally different?

Chef John said...

never cooked with it, but you can just leave the milk out.

Jesse from Detroit said...

I left the milk out (I couldn't bring myself to make a third trip to the store... always have lemons in the kitchen!) and it turned out fine.. perhaps a bit eggy? Wife told me it's another keeper -thanks, Chef John!

3sif said...

I love Rochester! This dish makes me miss home. I have a question, how important is the sherry or the wine for the sauce? Can I go without using it at all?

Blood Red Roses said...

I made this - and everyone loved it! No more falling asleep halfway through a dry chicken breast! I used beef stock - this recipe is quite flexible. I haven't tried a recipe of yours that I haven't loved, yet!

Chicau said...

Looks an awful lot like Picatta sans capers? Wish you would do a picatta recipe! I've got 1 or 2 I do, but somehow seems more legitimate if it comes from you!

Ed

Cheri Witmer said...

This was so delicious! I don't drink so I didn't have any wine, but I did have some red cooking wine so I used that. Wonderful! Will definately make this again and again, thanks Chef John!

Anonymous said...

Had to go to a party yesterday for about 30 people. Pounded out some cheap breasts and cut them into bite size pieces BEFORE cooking. Used the wine for the sharper taste. HUGE success - first thing gone (and there was ALOT!).

keep up the good work. I have turned alot of people on to your site.

btw: making your baked chicken parmy tonight MMMMMMM

Chicau

Anonymous said...

In other parts of the world I think we call this Chicken Francaise.

:-)

Rhenicia said...

made this TWICE! came out so good with my gougeres! (really starting to love and get into the whole cooking thing) so happy that i found your site!

Chef John said...

So glad, thanks!

Cynthia said...

Chef John,

What is a 'good' white wine for cooking??? I wanna make a little trip to the liquor store tomorrowwww :)

Thanks a bunch Chef!!!!

Anonymous said...

Tried it yesterday! Fantastico! I had a big bowl of raw garlic salad (just a lot of diced garlic with 1 diced shallot, herbs, oil, vinegar, salt&pepper, pinch a cayenne - even better on the next day!) on the side, it is delicious with it!

Kelly E. said...

I have been eating Chicken French my entire life!! My mother has been making this recipe for over 40 years and it's still my favorite Chicken recipe of all time! I just want to thank you for posting this so everyone else can love this as much as my family and I do that are not from Rochester!

Fancy Monkey said...

Nice little dish. Although the juice of two lemons seemed a little much. We ended up using one lemon and wish we would have reduced it to half a lemon.

Madonna said...

Two things I did not know before watching this video. First, I did not know eggs would get bitter if cooked too hot. Secondly, I thought your camera was on a tripod. Thank you for making us think we really can cook.

axel14222 said...

I loved the chicken, but the sauce was way too lemony/tart for me. Maybe using Sherry next time in place of wine will sweeten it up a bit.

Jolie Bourgeois said...

I can't believe I never (a) had this dish (I'm from Buffalo but live in Rochester) and (b) realized you were from Rochester. Thanks for the recipe!!

DeTigero said...

Hello there! I just have to say that you're awesome! I'm pregnant at the moment and have been for days now making one of your dishes per day or at least improvising! Yesterday was the chicken piccata, which was delicious, all of the kids and husband loved it. The day before I used the sauce you used for the Miso-Glazed skirt steak, but I didn't have miso, so I went w/o it... :( that's the reason why I wanted to post a comment right now.
Just now, for this recipe, you used veggie broth, so I was wondering, since we don't have an option of buying it in a store pre made, can I substitute it with those veggie cubes you use when making a soup per say?

Either way, I think you're amazing, and have given me many many many good ideas, but sometimes I have to improvise due to the fact that we don't have a lot of stuff here that I need for some of the dishes, like miso for example. I'm trying the chicken parmesan casserole tomorrow...hope it turns out just right :) and I'm sending you a big hello all the way from Montenegro! :)

Chef John said...

Yes, you can use the cubes to make the broth! Thanks!

Fry Cook said...

I can't wait to make this tomorrow. Going to serve with roasted asparagus and rice pilaf. Yum. Thanks for the video!

Elnaz A said...

Hi Chef John, I've made a bunch of your recipes and love the blog and videos. I made the Chicken French tonight. I tasted the chicken before I had put it into the sauce to warm-up again and it tasted so delicious and crispy and juicy. But, after I put the chicken back into the sauce, it turned out so soggy!! I followed what you had done, what am I missing here?

Elnaz A said...

Hi Chef John, I've recently started cooking. I've made a bunch of your recipes and love your blog and videos. I made the Chicken French tonight. I tasted some of the chicken, before I put the chicken back into the sauce to warm-up and the chicken tastes so delicious, juicy and crispy. But, after they were mixed in with the sauce, they turned out soggy!! I followed everything you did in the video. Not sure what happened.

Chef John said...

You didn't do anything wrong! That's how it's supposed to be! It's not a crispy dish.

Scion said...

I LOVE this stuff! But the other night, I realized I had no veggie stock so I substituted one-half can of an 8-ounce V-8! It came out great, and my guests loved it. Makes it a little 'redder' and not so golden colored.

Jimmy-O said...

Hi Chef John this is Jimmy-O from Rochester, Do you have a marsela recipe as well???