Something’s always cooking in the Ciullo family.
The West Scranton residents, Marci and Leo Ciullo, each come from a long line of great cooks. Marci Ciullo’s parents, Pam and Pat Ahearn, host almost all major holidays (given there’s not a global pandemic), when the family gathers to share cherished recipes.
On Leo Ciullo’s side, there’s his late grandmother, Anita Joyce, who the family affectionately called “Nan” and who loved to cook for anyone and everyone. Leo Ciullo’s dad, also named Leo, and his late mom, Madonna, both perfected classic Italian recipes.
When Leo and Marci got married and had children of their own — Leo Jr., Jake and Vito — they turned their love of cooking into a beloved family pastime. Over the years, they’ve created hundreds of delicious meals, but Leo Ciullo’s take on his mother’s Chicken Francaise recipe remains a big hit.
Local Flavor is a sucker for tradition and storied recipes, so we couldn’t wait to try the Ciullo’s Chicken Francaise, which earned the couple a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore.
While Leo Ciullo got the recipe from his mom, he perfected it over the years. Marci Ciullo said no matter the occasion, friends and family alike request the dish.
“It’s that super thin (scallopini-style) chicken, which I think is what everyone goes crazy for,” Marci Ciullo said, adding that they typically serve the dish with a side of spinach.
It’s a very straightforward recipe, she said, and the Ciullos even tailored it to fit the family’s dietary restrictions. They sometimes swap in King Arthur Gluten-Free Rice Flour for typical wheat flour to make the recipe appropriate for those with gluten sensitivities.
“It’s just so versatile, and you really can do anything with it,” Marci Ciullo said. “There’s butter, a little white wine, fresh lemon and the way those flavors come together. It’s perfect.”
In addition to Italian specialties such as homemade red sauce with meatballs and homemade pizza, they’ve also taken pointers from Marci Ciullo’s mom for dishes such as Pot Roast with all the fixings. The family puts its spin on classics, too, like making the traditional pizza a Buffalo Chicken version. They’ve also passed on the craft to their kids. And whenever their oldest son and his wife are in town, daughter-in-law Makena shows off her cooking skills, too.
“It’s such a relaxing activity to just unwind after a long day at work, but it’s really nice to be able to do it together and share in that,” Marci Ciullo said.
Marci and Leo Ciullo’s Chicken Francaise
For the chicken:
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, prepared scaloppini-style
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black pepper, crushed
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Pound chicken between two pieces of press-and-seal. Add flour to a bowl. Add crushed salt and pepper to flour. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add 1 tablespoon of water while mixing. Put olive oil in large frying pan. Dip chicken in flour first, then in egg batter and place in oil in pan. Fry on both sides until golden brown (do not over cook). Clean out frying pan.
For the sauce:
- 1 stick butter
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (the Ciullos use pinot grigio)
- 1 lemon (half for juice and half to be sliced for cooking)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 1/2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- 10 ounces chicken broth
In the same pan from the chicken, add butter and flour. Once butter is melted, add parsley, chicken broth and squeeze in lemon juice. Cook for two minutes on medium heat. Add wine and cook for three more minutes. Add crushed salt and pepper, to taste.
Place chicken in a baking dish and pour sauce over chicken. Place a few lemon slices on top. Bake uncovered at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with side of spinach.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT