Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday: Fran's Chicken

Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

One of our favorite dishes around here is a chicken recipe from my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was a fabulous cook before Alzheimer's took her over, and it was just one of her many talents. She was a fabulous quilter, a sharp bridge player, puzzler extraordinaire and all around handy woman. She had a brilliant, dry sense of humor, and she definitely lived by the creed, "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything."

She was also a loving mom, grandma and wife, and all of use who were able to bathe in her warmth were lucky indeed.

I've made what I call "Fran's Chicken" for years. It's a perfect "go to" dish for potlucks or times when friends need a prepared dinner, and it was traditionally what we'd serve the first night that one of our new exchange students arrived in the U.S.

Our Japanese daughter was just visiting us for too brief a visit, and she requested that I make Fran's Chicken for one of the dinners. Just for giggles, the other dishes she requested for this meal were yellow squash (summer squash), which I sauteed in olive oil with bits of red onion, Scaletta Green Bean Salad and what we call "the cake". "The cake" is a ridiculously easy (and processed) recipe which I'll post below as a bonus for this week (another traditional fave of all our exchange kids). I took pictures of the chicken, but they were awful - I'll post one in any case. I have no pictures of the cake, but basically it's a deep, deep chocolate cake with bittersweet chips. It goes very well with either milk or vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Fran's Chicken


3 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 - 1/2 lbs.)
2 eggs
1 - 2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
olive oil
onion salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 small box of mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 - 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cut up chicken breasts into 1" - 2" pieces. Set aside.
3. Beat the eggs with a fork. Drop all the chicken pieces in the egg mixture and mix well.
4. Heat a frying pan (or two) with 1 - 2 TBS olive oil over medium high. Set up a bowl with the bread crumbs next to the cooking area.
5. When oil is hot, dredge the chicken pieces in the bread crumbs and saute until golden brown on both sides.
6. Place finished pieces in a 9X13 baking dish. Blot with towels to get rid of excess oil. Sprinkle onion salt and oregano to taste over the chicken pieces. Sprinkle half the mozzarella over the chicken, reserve the rest of the mozzarella. Sprinkle the mushrooms over the chicken and cheese. Pour the chicken broth over all, just enough to cover the chicken. Cover with foil and place in the oven.
7. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on top.
8. Bake another 10 minutes or so until golden brown.
9. Remove from oven and let cool 5 or 10 minutes. Serve with rice or couscous.

Serves 4 - 6

"The Cake"

This is a common recipe from a variety of community cookbooks, etc. I believe I originally got it from a local preschool cookbook.


1 box of pudding-type chocolate cake
1 box of INSTANT chocolate pudding (I use chocolate fudge)
1 cup sour cream (I always use reduced fat)
1 cup of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to whatever temperature is listed on the cake box.
2. Prepare cake as directed on box, up through the blending stage.
3. Blend in the pudding mix and the sour cream. Then do the high speed mix phase of the cake preparation.
4. Stir in the chips.
5. Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake according to box directions, adding 5 - 10 minutes to overall baking time. Test for doneness by putting a skewer or toothpick in the highest center part - skewer should come out with moist crumbs, not liquid.
6. When cake is done, place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
7. When cake has cooled in pan for 15 minutes, take a butter knife, and run it around the inside and outside edges of the bundt pan. Then take a plate and place it upside down on top of the cake. Turn the plate and cake over and the cake will release and sit rightside up on the plate. Let cool completely before slicing.

Serves 12 - 20. Note, this is VERY rich cake!


Korie said...

They both look really super good.

Betsy said...

I enjoyed your description of your mother-in-law even more than I did the thought of eating that chocolate cake!!!

Jen said...

They are, Lilac. Super good, both. But notice there's no nutrition info., lol. I believe I have it for a modified version of the cake.

Betsy - I was extremely lucky to be her daughter-in-law. She was a remarkable woman, and I just hope that she can find peace soon. It breaks my heart.

Goofball said...

Your mother-in-law seems to be a great lady. I am so sorry that she is suffering right now.

The fran's chicken recipe sounds delicious and fairly easy to do! Great combination. the picture seemed a bit oily but that'll be the broth that I see. When I read it through I think I'd add a little touch of lemon in it....or would I spoil it?
I like the idea of serving it with couscous.

Jen said...

I think lemon might work well. It's not oily, but I put too much broth in the particular version that I photographed.

Ben said...

Yummy! I like the way you talk about your mother-in-law. I also love my mother-in-law and her cooking. And I want a piece of that cake. It sounds so delicious :D

Jen said...

I'm glad you also have a great relationship with your MIL, Ben. Life is so much happier that way! The cake is great, but now that I bake from scratch, it actually ends up tasting processed to me. ;-)

Núria said...

Your mother in law sounds like a wonderful person... somebody to be admired!

Sometimes the pictures don't show how delicious a dish can be... but dear, I trust you :D.
Sometimes I'm amazed by the different way of cooking we all have... I would have never thought of cooking a chicken this way. Thanks for sharing :D

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Both those reicpes look great! You were lucky to have had such a wonderful MIL!

Mae Travels said...

IT seems ironic that in the very distant past, someone won the Pillsbury bakeoff with a cakemix to which she added pudding -- and thus created the need for every home baker to own a bundt pan. And now, we have recipes with pudding cakemix plus pudding. Will the cakemix inventors give us double pudding?

Unknown said...

Hey! I might even be able to make this one. thanks.

glamah16 said...

Im loving that chicken recipe. Really flavorful. As for the cake pudding in it always is great, plus the added bonus of sour cream.

anno said...

I'm already sold on The Cake; it's become a tradition around here. Fran's chicken sounds like a winner, too -- with chicken, mushrooms, & cheese, how could it not? Your mother-in-law does sound like a remarkable woman; I'm glad you were blessed in the in-law department.

Jen said...

Nuria, I think this is a very American dish - sort of a bastardization of Italian, but then made American comfort food. And yes, my MIL was simply marvelous. And also yes, my pictures were horrible.

Judy - thanks so much! And thanks for stopping by. My MIL was, indeed, wonderful.

Mae - this could become an Escher etching of cake in pudding and pudding in cake ad infinitum. At some point, however, the whole thing just wouldn't bake anymore. ;-) BTW... I initially got this recipe through the A2 JCC preschool cookbook that a friend of mine had.

Greg, this is easy, just a little time consuming. The cake is easy and NOT time consuming.

Glamah, the chicken is really great. Especially when you don't use as much broth as I did this time, lol. The cake is delicious, but as I said above, kind of has that aftertaste...

Anno, I truly was blessed there. I think the chicken would be a hit with your crew. m could move the mushrooms if they didn't appeal - that's what C does.

Karen said...

I am definitely trying that chicken recipe soon! I think I might be able to get BOTH my kids to eat it. A miracle.

Jen said...

Karen, it's really a kid-pleaser.

Shan said...

Oh my, this is so on my too try list. Both of them.