Chicken Veronique

As I’ve mentioned before, after Lista’s Italian Cuisine closed in 1980 I went to work at a national pancake franchise that had opened a restaurant in Brockport. After working there for a couple years I had the opportunity to work at the SUNY College at Brockport (where Dad worked until he retired). As a non-union kitchen employee I was asked to do lots of different things, but one of the jobs I liked the most was when I was asked to prep for banquets. And that brings me to today’s post about Chicken Veronique.

I first learned about Chicken Veronique from my Dad who often made a version of this classic French dish while at SUNY Brockport (apparently it was a favorite of the then college president). Although not a traditional representation of the original dish, Dad’s version of Chicken Veronique combined the familiar technique of chicken piccata (dipping the filet in flour before sauteing in butter and lemon) then adding the more typical Veronique ingredients of shallots, white wine, cream, and seedless grapes.

During my time cooking at the college I was called upon once to make Chicken Veronique for a catered luncheon of about 200 students and faculty. Fortunately for me this was not as daunting a task as it sounds since I had plenty of experience catering alongside my Dad, and the college kitchen was fully equipped for large batch cooking. Therefore, everything was moving along splendidly — I had filleted and pounded the dozens of chicken breasts, sauteed them with shallots and butter, simmered them in white wine and chicken stock, and was ready for the final step of adding cream and… seedless grapes… “where are the grapes?” I asked my manager, a good man, who knew food service and handled people quite well — unfortunately his one failing was inventory control. It turned out he had not ordered fresh grapes for this menu. Not a problem, I was told as he handed me two #10 cans labeled “Jubilee Grapes in Syrup.” Okay. So I opened these enormous cans only to reveal hundreds of shriveled grapes that were dyed a bright Maraschino cherry red.  Still, I was told to use them — so I did. I rinsed them off the best I could and added them as a liberal garnish to top my beautiful pans of chicken, wrapped them up and placed them in the holding oven until serving time. As each pan was sent out to the serving lines, I peeled back the foil to reveal those darned “Jubilee Grapes” had stained my Chicken Veronique with neon pink blotches. Yikes! Luckily for me college students and faculty are not very fussy when it comes to free food.

Since then I will only prepare Chicken Veronique with fresh seedless green grapes so there could be no possibility of repeating of the pink chicken fiasco.


Vinnie Lista’s Chicken Veronique 

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves (about 1 1/4 pounds)

Salt and Ground Black Pepper to taste
1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
2 TBSP Butter
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 large Shallot (or 1/4 of an onion) – thinly sliced
1 large clove Garlic – minced
1 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Dry White Wine (like Sauvignon Blanc)
1/4 cup Half & Half Cream
2 TBSP Butter
1 TBSP Mild Dijon Mustard (such as Grey Poupon)

1 cup Seedless Green Grapes – halved lengthwise
Chopped Fresh Parsley – as garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Trim chicken breasts of all visible fat, place one at a time in a gallon size zip-top bag and pound evenly with flat side of a meat mallet to about ¼ inch thickness (if preferred, you can butterfly each breast before pounding). Season both sides with salt and pepper and coat with flour, shake off excess and set on a plate in refrigerator for 10 minutes. 

2. In an extra large skillet, heat 1 TBSP each butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken (in batches) and cook, turning once, until no longer pink inside, 3-4 minutes per side (add additional 1 TBSP butter/olive oil as needed). Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
3. Add the shallot and garlic to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and white wine, bring to a boil and reduce liquid to about 1/2 (about 4 to 5 minutes). Reduce heat to med-low, whisk in cream, Dijon mustard and additional 2 TBSP butter – cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Add the grapes, chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, turning to coat with the sauce. Simmer in sauce for about 5 minutes (or until sauce begins to thicken).
5. To serve, place chicken portion on dinner plate and spoon the grapes and sauce over the top, garnish with a little chopped fresh parsley if desires.


There you have it, my Dad’s version of Chicken Veronique served countless times at SUNY College at Brockport during the 80’s and early 90’s. This is one of those chicken entrees that looks elegant and sophisticated yet is simple and quick to prepare. You can serve it for a dinner party with special guests or as a week day meal for your family. You can even elevate it a little more by adding sauteed fresh mushroom or artichoke hearts with the grapes.

This dish is great served over seasoned rice, quinoa or couscous — it goes very well over angel hair pasta or even buttered noodles. Pair it with some roasted asparagus, Brussels sprouts, haricots verts, or even a simple green salad. Magnifique!

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

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