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Grammy’s Chicken Spezzatini & Molten Lava Cake

grammy's picnic 6

Grammy’s Chicken Spezzatini & Molten Lava Cake


One of the most unfortunate things about living in Florida was how far away we were from my mother’s side of the family.  My grandparents made frequent trips down to see us, but we still didn’t see them as much as I would have liked.  When we moved to North Carolina we were closer, but it wasn’t until I decided to go to school in Baltimore that I got the opportunity to see my grandparents on a regular basis.  They had, by that point, moved from New Jersey to the D.C. area, so I got to see them a few times a semester.


I have really enjoyed reconnecting with my grandparents of an adult.  They’re both completely hilarious and adorable and a lot of fun to be around.  My grandmother, Marlene, is a little morsel of a woman, barely (if at all) reaching five feet, which means I have towered over her for at least ten years.  She can quite literally fill a conversation all by herself, which is why a phone call that starts with “I don’t have a lot of time to chat” usually ends an hour later with me completely filled in on the goings on of everyone in my family, plus some extras.


As you can probably imagine, my grandmother is also an amazing chef.  One of my favorite “bits” that my grandparents do goes as follows.  We’ll be out at a restaurant, and my grandmother will be perusing the dessert menu and come across an item that she makes well.  She’ll exclaim “Molten lava cake!  I make an excellent molten lava cake!”  My grandfather, in turn, will huff, and respond “HA!  When was the last time you made a molten lava cake?  You never make ME molten lava cake.  You don’t even make me cookies!  Do you know what I would do for some cookies?”  I call it a bit because even though I’m pretty sure they do this to entertain me, I know Poppie probably wants some damn cookies.


When I invited my grandmother to be a part of this mother’s day series, we decided that it would be fun if we cooked something together, as they only live half an hour away from us.  So this past weekend Dan & I drove to Gaithersburg and spent the afternoon cooking, drinking, and laughing with my grandparents.  My grandmother had a rough menu laid out when I got there, but we made a few decisions ad-lib, much to Poppie’s chagrin (he’s a planner).  We made Chicken Spezzatini a la Lieggis, Molten Lava Cake, and sangria.


Chicken spezzatini is breaded chicken cooked with mushrooms and white wine.  It is served with fettucini or spaghetti that has been tossed in olive oil, butter, and parmesan.  We also had it with a side of fresh spinach tossed in garlic and olive oil, one of my favorites.  Molten lava cake is a dense chocolate cake baked in a ramekin, with a liquid (or molten) center.


Our molten lava cake didn’t turn out quite the way we expected it to.  On account of the sangria, Grammy & I didn’t feel as compelled to follow the recipe as we usually would have, and so the center was not really molten at all.  I’ll take responsibility for over whisking, though I should really just blame Poppie & Dan for the heavy-handed sangria.  It was wonderful to spend the afternoon relaxing and cooking slowly, trying fruitlessly to refuse appetizers and then getting scolded for not eating enough dinner.  It was a wonderful meal and I loved every minute of it.


Chicken Spezzatini
Source: Marlene Waldron

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts (cut into slivers)

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 lemon

1 cup dry white wine

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup flour

1 cup chicken broth

2 tbsp melted butter

1 cup milk

Salt & pepper

Dip each piece of chicken in milk, and then dredge in flour.  Heat olive oil and butter in a pan and brown each piece of chicken, then set it aside.  Add mushrooms, garlic, and salt & pepper to the pan.  Add wine and lemon juice, and allow to reduce.

Pour in chicken broth and allow to reduce again.  Add chicken back into the pan, and let the whole mixture simmer for at least half an hour.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve along side fettucini.

Serves 4.

Molten Lava Cake

2 tsp melted butter, for glazing ramekins

1 cup chocolate chips

1 stick butter, room temperature

2 whole eggs, room temp

2 egg yolks, room temp

1/4 cup sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

Begin by melting butter and chocolate together.  Set aside.

Whip eggs, yolks, and sugar with an electric mixer until a ribbon forms.

Combine flour and cocoa powder, and sift into egg mixture, half at a time.  Fold in melted chocolate and butter.

Brush each ramekin with melted butter, and pour mixture into ramekin.  Allow the ramekins to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before baking.  Bake at 450 for 8 minutes.

Serves 4.

(Second to last photograph by Daniel C. Hoerr)

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1 Comment

  • Sandra L. Levine

    18.09.2014 at 13:24 Reply

    Your grandfather’s name popped into my head a few minute ago for no particular reason and that enabled me to Google your grandmother, who, along with your great-aunt Gracie were my next-door neighbors decades ago in Trenton, NJ. I adored your grandmother, to the point of being something of a pest, the way a younger sibling might be. I’m sure that your grandmother has told you that her mother, too, was a superior home cook. I loved reading this blog post and having the feeling that I was spending some time once again with the Fiorellos!

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