The NY Times Food Section recently mined their data and reported that Rochester’s own Chicken French aka, Chicken Francese, was their most viewed and liked recipe for 2018. One would think that this is a French recipe, but actually here in Rochester, some Italian restaurants make this dish their classic star.
According to Wikipedia, Chicken Française (or Chicken Francese) is an Italian-American dish of flour breaded, egg-dipped, sautéed chicken cutlets with a lemon-butter and white wine sauce. The dish is popular in the region surrounding Rochester, New York, where it is known as Chicken French, to the point that some have suggested the dish be called Chicken Rochester. When Italian immigrants arrived in Rochester, they brought their recipes with them, including veal francese, but they substituted chicken for the more expensive veal.
I met with Matt Grinnell from his family’s eponymously named restaurant on Monroe Avenue and down the street from the long-closed Brown Derby Restaurant, whose chef from New York City, supposedly brought the recipe and served Veal French in the 50’s. But history does have legs, and people involved are still active in the restaurant business and remember that time. Chris Barry, the bartender at Grinnell’s, whose family owned the Cresent Beach Hotel on Lake Ontario, grew up in the restaurant business and remembers that they served veal and chicken french in the 50’s. Grinnell’s which opened in 1961 has had it on their menu since that time and is still their #1 seller.
Matt, who’s the 3rd generation Grinnell, said that their recipe is different from the classic which uses white wine, “we use Golden Sherry and less lemon that his chef has made the same way in big batches for 20 years.”
I had to try it all and Matt’s staff graciously packed up their Veal, Chicken and Artichoke French after I shot these photos in-house. I enjoyed the chicken over the veal, not because of political correctness, but because the tenderness of chicken worked well with the breading and sauce. But my absolute favorite was the Artichoke French.
Grinnell’s chef braises the artichoke hearts and then breads and sautes each tender morsel and serves them smothered in the French sauce. After finishing the chokes, my finger swiped the plate so I could enjoy each drop (thankfully, in the privacy of my home). The combination of sherry and lemon along with the acid from the artichoke hearts, blended into the perfect bite.
For those of you who haven’t visited Grinnell’s, it’s a hidden gem in Brighton just a couple of blocks up from 12 Corners. It’s a classic, white-table-clothed, clubby, neighborhood restaurant and bar with a retro vib as soon as you walk in the door. All generations will love this place with it’s paneled walls, historic photos and a menu with a chop house Italian mix.
The bar is a neighborhood hang out with in-house barrel aged herbed spirits for classic cocktails, such as Manhattans and Whiskey Sours. Their signature martini features gin and champagne. Millennial’s wanting a genuine retro experience, perfect for Instagram, love it here where they can go with their friends and relatives with everyone enjoying the food and ambiance.
For those out of area folks who want to enjoy Chicken French, check out the recipe created by Julia Moskin in The New York Times. Her recipe includes white wine, but for a more intense flavor layer, try it with Golden Sherry.
Opinions of the author are her own and products were purchased or otherwise noted for discussion. I welcome your comments and suggestions for food and specialty items from upstate New York and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org