It looks like Chicken Francaise, it tastes like Chicken Francaise, but it's missing one big thing - a ton of fat. The first time I made Chicken Francaise, I was surprised at how heavy it actually was. I guess I had always imagined that in the grand scheme of neighborhood diner dinners it was one of the less indulgent. Chicken breast, lemon, a bit of butter, how bad can that be? Oh, but it was a lot of butter. And oil. And those chicken breasts were dipped in egg and flour. And fried. And it was much richer than I realized.
But it got me thinking that it didn't need to be so rich and heavy, especially when lemon is a dominant flavor. Lemon is about freshness and brightness, and freshness doesn't need a ton of fat to be delicious. Most of the time I'm a purist and think it's both no fun to lighten up a classic recipe, and also somewhat sacrilegious, but in this case it actually made sense. It was lighter and simpler, and in the end J-Cat just thought that I had made his favorite dish. He was not at all suspicious that any compromises had been made.
I should point out, however, that just because this dish is a lightened version of the classic and is served on a pile of greens doesn't mean it's diet food. I still coat the chicken in flour (whole wheat, but still), and I still use some butter in the form of ghee, and I still served it over a pile of rice. Gimme a break, there are only so many things I'm willing to let go of. Recipe after the jump:
SKINNY CHICKEN FRANCAISE
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets, about 1 lb total
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
juice of 1 whole lemon
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 head frisee
Place the chicken breast cutlets between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to about 1/4-inch thickness. In a low bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge each cutlet in flour and shake off any excess. Melt the butter or ghee in a large saute pan big enough to accommodate all four cutlets. Add the cutlets to the pan and sear until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the broth, wine, and lemon juice to the pan and scrape any brown bits off the bottom. Bring the liquid to a strong simmer and allow to reduce by half. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer a couple minutes more, until the chicken is coated in the sauce and cooked through. Serve the chicken cutlets over rice and a bed of uncooked frisee, the heat from the chicken will wilt the greens just enough.