While researching some Italian pasta-based chicken dishes, I came across a dish called Chicken Francesca more than once. I loved the name, and all it implies: the Italian word Francesca literally means “from France”, so to me the name Chicken Francesca means it’s an Italian dish that is cooked using French culinary methods. The problem is that the recipes I found that carried the name were vastly different from my initial impression: some were baked using breadcrumbs and cream, others were mushroom-intensive and served over rice, and still more were linked to a restaurant in Boston known for breasts sautéed in a skillet with artichokes and parsley.
So I decided to take my favorite elements of some of those recipes to make something even more unique: an Italian pasta dish that borrows heavily from French culinary methods! Namely, I focused on creating a heavily-browned skillet in order to deglaze it to serve as the base for my pasta sauce. I also used a milder shallot instead of the traditional onion found in many Italian pasta dishes, and added fresh parsley right at the end of the dish, which is so often found in French cuisine.
4-6 chicken breasts, sliced or pounded to 1/2″ thickness
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (red wine or apple cider vinegars okay)
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
pasta and other stuff:
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp each salt and ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
9 oz fettucine-style pasta: Cappello’s, rice pasta, or zucchini pasta
6 oz bacon, pre-cooked, chopped coarsely
1 can/jar (14oz) artichoke hearts, drained, cut in half length-wise
2 cups broccoli, pre-cooked cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup hard cheese (Romano, Parmesan, or a mix of the two), shredded or grated
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
I think it’s prudent to mention that this recipe is not for the faint of heart – this definitely isn’t a “set and forget” kind of dish, as it requires you to constantly be doing something and thinking one step ahead. That being said, I’ve added a lot of pics and explicit directions, so I think you’ll have fun whipping this up. Just don’t make it while watching your favorite soap opera or something!
Slice or gently pound your chicken breast pieces to 1/2″ thickness. Combine with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, then marinate for at least two hours, but up to four hours.
Heat the 1 tsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter in a large skillet on medium/high heat until shimmering, about two minutes. Add the chicken pieces and sauté 3-4 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. You’ll want to cook the chicken in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. It took me three batches to cook six breasts. You’ll know the chicken is cooked through by pressing it with your finger; when it’s firm to the touch it’s probably ready.
As your pieces cook, the rest of the pan will start to brown and stick to the pan, that’s fine! We’re going to use that browned stuff to deglaze the pan and get some seriously delicious flavors for our sauce. Pay attention to the smell and color of the browned pan – if it starts to turn from “browned” to “burnt”, adjust the heat. Also, feel free to add butter and olive oil to the pan if the chicken starts to get too dried out.
As the chicken is cooking, it’s a good time to prep your other ingredients, especially your pasta. Our friends over at Cappello’s recently sent us another batch of their incredible grain-free, gluten-free pasta so that’s what we used. You can read a review I wrote of their pastas last year right here.
For rice pasta or Cappello’s pasta, cook the noodles according to their directions, then drain, and rinse in cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, and set aside. For zucchini noodles, just cut them using a spiral vegetable slicer and set aside – it will soften when you add it near the end.
As the chicken finishes cooking, cover it in tin foil to help retain its heat. I like to put dishes that I want to keep warm in the microwave to further help keep heat from escaping.
Turn your heat down to medium, and place the artichoke hearts in the pan, cut-side down, and brown for about two minutes.
Carefully remove the artichoke hearts with some tongs and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and the chopped shallot, and sauté for about two minutes, until translucent and aromatic. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds.
Add the mushrooms, 1 tbsp white wine, and any juices that have accumulated from the bottom of your plate of cooked chicken.
Sauté the mushrooms for about five minutes, until softened. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon to gently scrape up the browned stuff on the bottom of the skillet. If it dries out, add water to the mushrooms, one tbsp at a time.
Stir in the cream, ground nutmeg, and remaining salt and pepper to the mushrooms, and bring to a simmer.
Once the cream starts to simmer, add the remaining ingredients: pasta, bacon, broccoli, chopped parsley, and artichoke hearts.
Carefully toss your ingredients using some tongs, wait a few seconds, and stir in the cheese and continue to carefully toss everything until the cheese melts and thickens the sauce. Should only take a minute or two.
Plate your pasta, topping it with sliced chicken.
So there you have it, an original creation from yours truly, that carries the name Chicken Francesca both figuratively and literally.