By Barbara Beltrami

There are so many things we see on menus and order because we think they’re much too fancy to cook ourselves. And what a mistake that is because they’re most likely no more complicated or mysterious than the things we regularly cook. This is especially true with chicken breast dishes. Just because they have foreign-sounding names in italics, we are intimidated by them. The following recipes are traditional “continental” chicken dishes that have been around for ages and that are quite easy. I’ve put their fancy names in italics so you’ll feel like a celebrity chef when you make them!

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.


2 boneless skinless thin chicken breasts, pounded to ½-inch thickness

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

3 bruised garlic cloves

3 to 4 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced thin

½ cup sweet Marsala

2/3 to 1 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped


Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook 1½ to 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside to keep warm. Add another tablespoon each of oil and butter to skillet; saute shallot and garlic just until garlic releases its aroma, about half a minute, then remove it and discard. Add the third tablespoons of oil and butter and the mushrooms, saute over medium high heat until juices evaporate and mushrooms are tender; adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Add Marsala; simmer until reduced by half, about two minutes, then add chicken broth and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet; simmer in liquid, turning once, until just warmed through, transfer to warm platter; melt final tablespoon butter in liquid; add rosemary and stir; spoon liquid over chicken and serve immediately with noodles and a green vegetable or salad.

Chicken a la Kiev

Chicken a la Kiev

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.


6 skinless boneless thin chicken breast halves, pounded to ½-inch thickness

1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 6 finger-shaped pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Flour for dredging

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

Oil for deep frying


Place butter in middle of each chicken breast; sprinkle with salt, pepper and chives and roll up, envelope fashion; flesh should adhere without toothpicks. Dredge each roll lightly in flour and then egg, then breadcrumbs. Cover and refrigerate one hour. Fill a skillet with 1-inch oil; heat to 360 F. Being careful of splattering, gently drop each chicken roll into sizzling oil; fry on all sides until golden brown. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and serve immediately with mashed or boiled potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.


4 large thin skinless, boneless chicken breast halves pounded to ½-inch thickness

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup flour

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 bruised garlic cloves

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 lemon wedges


Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour and shake off excess. In a large skillet heat half the oil and half the butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook without moving them until bottoms are deep golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn them and cook until barely brown, about one minute. Remove to a clean plate. 

Add garlic and remaining two tablespoons oil and cook over medium heat until garlic starts to brown and releases its aroma; do not let it scorch; remove and discard. Add wine and capers and cook over medium heat, swirling liquid and scraping browned bits from bottom of pan until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add half a cup of water and remaining butter and swirl again over medium-high heat until liquid forms an emulsion, about 1 minute.

Return chicken to skillet and simmer in sauce until cooked through and sauce is thick enough to coat spoon; transfer chicken to warm platter. Stir lemon juice into sauce, pour over chicken, sprinkle with parsley and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve hot with rice and a green vegetable.


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