Dinner Party Menu-Part Four: Entree (Chicken Francese)

It would never have occurred to me that this is a dish which could be prepared the day before until we had lunch at our favorite local Italian restaurant.  The portions were quite large, so I took half my chicken home. 
I reheated it - gently! - the next day and was amazed that it was just as good.  Of course, if you are preparing a family meal, you can do it at the last minute since it is quite quick to prepare - especially if you have chicken breasts in your freezer already sliced and pounded!

Chicken Francese with vegetables

Chicken Francese

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth, preferably home made
Juice of 1 lemon
Lemon slices
Thyme sprigs or chopped parsley to garnish

Slice chicken breasts in half, horizontally, place between sheets of plastic wrap and pound until about ¼” thin.
Add salt and pepper to flour
Have ready a large skillet with the butter and olive oil heating over medium heat.
Dredge chicken breast in flour to coat thoroughly, shake off excess and then dip in beaten egg.
Add to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.  Don’t crowd the skillet.
When cooked, drain on paper towels and move to a large platter.
When all of the chicken is cooked, add the wine to the skillet and cook for a few minutes.  Add the chicken broth and lemon juice and cook until slightly reduced.
Return the chicken to the skillet to heat through.
Plate on individual serving plates, garnish with lemon slices and thyme or parsley and add vegetables.

You may note the difference in spelling. Is it Francaise or Francese? Both are correct spellings for this dish. Chicken Francese is used by most Italian-American cooks. Chicken Francaise is French.

This looks quick and easy, thanks Betty.

Watch the video

Dinner Party Menu- Part Three: Side Dishes

It's hard to give exact quantities for the vegetable portion of the menu, but a guideline would be:

Per person:
2 oz. green beans
2 oz. carrot, cut into batons about the same size as the green beans
1 medium red-skinned potato

If you know your guests are hearty eaters - just increase the quantity!

Cook the beans in salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes and transfer to a colander.
Add the carrots to the same water and, again, cook for about 5 minutes, and drain.
You are going to cook them again for a few minutes just prior to serving so check to see they are cooked the way you like them.  You can cook these the day before and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Cut the potatoes in quarters, or smaller if the potato is large, and cook in salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes.
Drain well

Transfer the potatoes to a roasting pan, just large enough to hold them, sprinkle with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, just enough to make sure they are well coated, and cook at 400º for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

Just before serving, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the beans and carrots, sprinkle with a little garlic salt and cook until heated through.

Watch the video:

Dinner Menu-Part Two: Salad

In food and fashion trends come and go.  A few years ago, no self-respecting chef would offer anything containing iceberg lettuce in his restaurant but it has suddenly started to appear in some high-end restaurants as "Wedge Salad".  Topped with a blue cheese dressing, crumbled blue cheese, crisp crumbles of bacon and some diced tomato, its a delicious way to start a meal.  Portions can be as large or small as you like!

To serve 8

1 head of iceberg lettuce, cut it wedges
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
10 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (or more to taste)
2 or 3 tomatoes, diced, seeds and juice discarded

Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream.  Add half the blue cheese and stir to combine. 
If the dressing appears too thick, add milk a tablespoon or two at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Place lettuce wedge on a serving plate, top with dressing and sprinkle with the reserved blue cheese, bacon, crumbles and diced tomato.

Note:  The day before your party you can make the dressing; the lettuce can be cut into wedges, the tomato diced and all wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.  The bacon can be cooked and crumbled and stored, lightly wrapped on the counter.

Watch the video:

Betty Busciglio’s Infamous Cheesecake (New York Style)

A rich New York style cheesecake, easy to prepare - if you have an electric mixer - and you can make it ahead and freeze it.  Pretty much makes it the perfect dessert.  In a perfect world it would come out of the oven after its cooling period without that annoying crack in the middle, but should that happen - not to worry!  Just add a fruit topping, such as the sliced strawberries that I use and no-one will be the wiser.

Betty Busciglio’s Infamous Cheesecake


24 ounces cream cheese
1½ cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1 cup  heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Beat cream cheese until smooth in mixer or processor
2.  Add sugar gradually and beat till light and fluffy
3.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
4.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
5.  Pour into 9" springform pan (or 2 6” or 7” pans) which has been prepared with the crust of your choice.
6.  Bake at 350° for one hour, turn off oven and leave cake for one hour.
7.  Remove, cool and refrigerate.  Freezes very well.

Makes 16 generous servings

Graham Cracker Crust:

3/4 package graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs (processor is great!)
4 tablespoons very soft butter
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped, if desired

Fruit topping of your choice.


Dinner Party Menu: Part One-Appetizers

When I was teaching "live" cooking classes, my most frequent request was for a dinner party menu that would allow the hostess (or host!) to serve a delicious meal but also be able to spend time with their guests.  The following series of videos will do just that: from appetizers, salad, main course, side dishes to dessert.  All designed to let you entertain with ease.

French Gougères

1½ cups water
½ cup butter, cut into cubes
1½ cups flour
6 large eggs
1 cup grated gruyere or Swiss cheese, packed
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, packed
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400º and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the butter, water and salt in a 3 to 4 quarts pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until the butter melts.  Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and thick with no lumps.  Remove from the heat and allow mixture to cool.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating with a hand-held mixture until all are incorporated into the mixture.  Stir in cheeses and pepper.

Transfer mixture to a large piping bag fitted with a plain tube and  pipe mounds onto prepared baking sheets.  Alternatively, you can drop mounds using two spoons.  You should get about 4 dozen from this recipe.

Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Rotate your baking sheets about half way through the coking time.

The puffs can be frozen before baking, simply add a few minutes to the cooking time.

These may be made the day before your dinner party and reheated just before serving

Melon and Proscuitto

Cut a melon of your choice into bite-sized cubes, wrap with a strip of thinly sliced proscuitto. 
You can make these in the morning, wrap with saran and arrange on a tray with a toothpick in each cube just before your guests arrive.