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Cugine Corner - The Johnny Meatballs Blog

Johnny Francese

Johnny Meatballs DeCarlo (October 16, 2012)

One of my favorites


Back in May, I catered the St. Donato feast dinner at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Montclair. It was a great event with great people. The society marched with the saint all day and then returned for a big meal prepared by yours truly. On the menu was Johnny’s Meatballs In Sunday Gravy (of course), baked rigatoni with ricotta and mozzarella, tossed salads with dinner rolls and Chicken Francese.


It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe on this blog, so today, I will share my Chicken Francese dish…now I prepared 40 lbs., made in three large skillets, finished in a huge pizza oven. But this recipe is for a family of four; based on a package of 8 cutlets (a normal sized pan should comfortably fit 4 cutlets at a time.)


First, clean your cutlets. You can use thin scallopine style or breasts which you can trim and pound out. So once they are cleaned, I like to lightly flour them and then dip them in a bath of liquid eggs (or you can use eggs beaten with milk).


The next step is to melt a little butter in your skillet and once it’s melted, I add in some olive oil (not extra virgin, just pure olive oil or a blended corn oil/olive oil) and let it get hot. Then I fry the chicken on both sides to achieve a nice exterior. After crisping both sides, remove them and set aside in a casserole pan. You don’t have to worry about cooking the chickens all the way through, you are just getting that golden crust on them and finishing them in the oven.


Now here’s the fun part which is making the lemon sauce, and I do it a bit differently than some. I first add in a bit of chopped garlic followed by some nice white wine and 2 cans of chicken broth. This deglazes the pan, and incorporating a little garlic in there gives it an even better depth of flavor in my opinion. (Be careful of flames!) I then squeeze in juice from 3 large lemons (you can also toss the lemons in there if you like after you extract the juice.) Now since I like my Francese extra lemony, I sprinkle in some salt and some lemon-pepper.


If you find you want a thicker sauce, whisk in a little more flour at this point. The sauce is really a simple combo of the butter and oil infused with the flavor from the chicken, the garlic, the spices and the liquids being your lemon juice, wine and broth. In a way, this could technically be a gravy if you think about it!


What I then do is pour all the sauce on top of the chicken and cook it in a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Once they are done, I like to arrange them on a serving platter with slices of lemon and a garnish of chopped parsley. You can get as creative as you like with this dish by adding in capers, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, really anything to make it your own. Personally, I like some shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano on top at the end. It also makes a great sandwich with fresh, wet mozzarella on a yellow semolina roll.


This is a pretty easy dish and you can even do them totally in the pan. You can also do this with filet of sole or veal. But I find that by just giving them that quick sauté and finishing them in the oven with them swimming in that lovely sauce, they get even more tender and juicy. Plus, I personally like to use a little thicker piece of chicken so this method ensures you will have no pink in the middle.


My mother made this dish a lot for me as a kid, and I always looked forward to it. She always paired it with a side of steamed broccoli and rice pilaf. But that’s all totally up to you. It went real nice with the macaroni and meatballs at the St. Donato party. If you would like a tray of this dish, feel free to e-mail me—it was a big hit and I have officially added it to my catering menu!


Till next time my friends, God Bless!

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