Chicken

A 5-Ingredient Lemony Chicken That's Big on Flavor & Simple As Heck

March 12, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week’s menu: a lemony chicken dish that’s all about the sauce.


Chicken Francese, which also goes by chicken Francaise, chicken French, and chick Franc (well, at least I call it that), is the ultimate weeknight dinner for anyone who loves chicken and lemony sauces. So all of us, right?

From start to finish, the dish is pretty fuss-free. You dredge chicken breasts in flour, egg, maybe milk, and sometimes bread crumbs. Then you sear them until golden-brown and finish cooking in a winey, lemony, buttery sauce. Lots of fresh parsley on top is optional, but not really.

While the preparation itself is simple as heck, by the time you add up the chicken dredge and pan sauce ingredients, the list gets longish. This AllRecipes version has eight ingredients (according to our Big Little rules), as does this one from The New York Times. And The Food Network’s top result comes in at seven.

Winner dinner in T-minus five ingredients. Photo by Rocky Luten

So, which ingredients aren’t absolutely essential?

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Top Comment:
“Why not use chicken stock instead of water? Garlic, other spices (hello parm) in the FLOUR when coating the chicken? I realize that doing so doesn't make it a "fiver" recipe, but this is a bland recipe otherwise. I made all those changes and its a MUCH improved recipe. I also added capers & shallots while frying the lemons. Next time I'm using large shrimp since its lent. ”
— cosmiccook
Comment

Chicken, flour, and lemons all have to stay. The chicken for obvious reasons. The flour is going to act as our one-ingredient chicken breading (eggs and crumbs are nice—but what’s even nicer is fewer dirty dishes). It’s also going to be our lemon breading, for a fried lemon wheel garnish (yes! just as fun as it sounds!). Oh, and it’s also going to coat some butter cubes to help thicken the pan sauce. The lemons, too, are doing overtime. In addition to the crispy slices, fresh-squeezed juice will make our pan sauce extra-tangy and extra-good. But what else do we need for that sauce?

It starts with those crusty bits stuck to the pan from browning the chicken, aka the fond. You add one or more liquids, scrape up the fond, and get a new, enriched liquid that’s a million times more flavorful. Lots of pan sauces use wine and some sort of stock.

White wine’s floral, bright booziness is signature when it comes to chicken Francese, so we definitely can't skip it. But the stock gave me pause. All of the recipes referenced above use chicken stock, which makes sense because we’re making a chicken dish. But is it necessary? After all, the fond has more than enough chickeny flavor—not to mention that the chicken breasts get added back to the sauce while it reduces. After seeing various sources recommend water instead of stock (including our own pan sauce how-to from a few years ago), I decided to give it a go—and now I’m never looking back.

The final flourish? Plenty of parsley. Now we could be stingy and do away with it, but is that really the kind of life we want to live? (No.)

This recipe makes more sauce than usual because you can never have too much and, if you’re like me, you won’t hold back when sopping it up with lots of bread.

What's your go-to chicken breast recipe? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • cosmiccook
    cosmiccook
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    Lauren
  • Bella95
    Bella95
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    Linda Safianwhite
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    Nancy
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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now, she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter.

11 Comments

cosmiccook April 1, 2019
While I get the whole "big little" hype, what about FLAVOR? Why not use chicken stock instead of water? Garlic, other spices (hello parm) in the FLOUR when coating the chicken? I realize that doing so doesn't make it a "fiver" recipe, but this is a bland recipe otherwise. I made all those changes and its a MUCH improved recipe. I also added capers & shallots while frying the lemons. Next time I'm using large shrimp since its lent.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. April 2, 2019
Hi! I always encourage readers to adapt recipes however they want—so, I’m glad that those substitutions led you toward something you enjoyed. For what it’s worth, flavor is always my priority when developing a Big Little Recipe. As mentioned in the article, I used water instead of chicken stock because I found the fond (and white wine) contributed more than enough flavor.
 
Nickadoo April 30, 2019
Genius ideas. I'll do this!
 
Lauren March 28, 2019
Has anyone used chicken thighs instead of breasts?
 
Bella95 March 24, 2019
Yum. Definitely putting chicken for this on the list for my next grocery shop. The flavour boost is wonderful but my secret reason for loving anything that suggests using the fond is that it does most of the work of cleaning the pan.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 24, 2019
Ha! I love that about deglazing the fond, too.
 
Linda S. March 23, 2019
This is a staple dish in Italian restaurants here in Rochester, N.Y. I am looking forward to trying it.
 
Nancy March 23, 2019
My comment on the remarks for this post, I understand that the writer is expecting folks to HAVE to shop for the five ingredients listed, and not for their considered staples already in everyone’s pantry. However it is pure assumption on the, or any, writers part that readers don’t have a lemon tree full of lemons on their back porch, which we have, but we may currently be out of kosher salt or fresh black peppercorns or unsalted 0!. The idea of five ingredient recipe really is a bit misleading! I have seen the statement 3, 4, or 5 ingredient recipes and think how can that be, until I read the full list of ingredients to find there are a few more. I’m thinking that “catch” is to get the curiosity seekers to peek. Do writers rack up points for every visit to their site? Seems there are recipes, I’ve found in this site, that make these claims yet have a longer shopping list! I’m just curious why the recipe title isn’t good enough? I’m an a Food 52 follower! Unless it’s a business making deal, which is ok, be unassuming about readers and their on hand ingredient list! What is for one isn’t always for all.
 
Bella95 March 24, 2019
The ones that really irritate me are when 'one' of the ingredients is a packet mix or ready meal or such like.
 
Al March 12, 2019
"5 ingredient recipe!"
Scrolls down to directions with 11 ingredients.
 
Eric K. March 12, 2019
Hi Al! Did you read the piece? The first line says, “we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered.” The idea, at least for me, is that there are 5 ingredients here to pick up at the store, aka that aren’t pantry staples. Hope that helps!