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Tampa's Laughing Cat's Chicken Yolanda...Deconstructed and Reinvented!

I am not recipe savvy. For I am the gal who sneers at the idea of having to put down my spatula, rinse my flour dredged hands and pick up a “how-to” for the cuisine I am preparing. Now don’t be fooled, I often drool over the photos and recipes from my fellow food bloggers, my mother’s torn and stained vintage cookbooks, Southern Living’s seasonal staples, and of course, dishes from my favorite Food network chefs. I look, I drool, I quickly process the ingredients and directions in my little noggin and then I never look back. Modifications are unintentionally and intentionally made along the way, making the cuisine my very own.

My most favorite way of “re-inventing” a recipe? Deconstructing a phenomenal dish from a restaurant and then, reconstructing it with my own personal twists and turns along the way. Now that my friends, is fun in the restaurant…and in the kitchen. One of my most beloved Tampa eateries, an authentic Italian restaurant, “The Laughing Cat” has the most delectable, out of this world, mouth-watering chicken dish I have ever had the pleasure in eating. “Chicken Yolanda” is a sherry mushroom cream sauced, Italian sausage, provolone and roasted red pepper topped enormous chicken breast that I often have sweet dreams about. I dream no longer. Just recently, I went bonkers in the kitchen and created a heavenly "Chicken Yoleslie".

“Chicken YoLeslie”

3 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts, butter-flied
1 1/2 cups EVOO
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to season
2 containers of baby portabellas, sliced
1 cup Sherry
¾ cup cream (I substitute half and half for a lower fat recipe)
½ cup chicken broth (as needed to help with de-glazing and sauce consistency)
3 links sweet Italian sausage (I used Aidells’ pre-cooked chicken Italian sausage for convenience and lower fat content)
2 jars Roasted Red peppers (Unless you’d rather roast your own)
12 slices preferred Italian cheese (Laughing Cat uses Provolone- I used Fontina for added flavor)


1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Take cream out of fridge and add to a bowl, bringing it to room temperature.

3. Cook Italian sausage according to package directions, slice in half length-wise and set aside.

4. Remove roasted reds from jar and set on paper towel so they can “drip dry”

5. Heat 1 cup EVOO in a large skillet on medium- high heat (If possible, do not use non-stick).

6. Clean chicken, salt and pepper both sides and butterfly-completely in half (for a total of 6 breast cutlets)

7. Dredge (Coat) chicken in flour on both sides. Test the oil in the pan with a pinch of flour to ensure it’s hot enough (it should sizzle). Be careful not to “crowd” the pan. If your pan isn’t big enough, you can cook 3 pieces at a time.

8. Brown each side of chicken just until golden, not cooking all the way through. ***You may have to adjust the heat so that the flour doesn’t burn. Stovetops vary in heat settings.

9. When golden, remove cutlets from pan and set in a casserole dish. Take pan off heat but reserve for sherry cream sauce.

10. Place a large piece of roasted red pepper on top of each cutlet. Then, place 1 sausage half on each. Put in oven. After 10 minutes, check with meat thermometer. If 160 degrees, remove chicken from oven.

11. While chicken is baking, heat pan to medium high heat again with a few tablespoons of EVOO. Add mushrooms to pan sauté for 2 minutes. Next, add the Sherry. “De-glaze” the pan, scrapping all of the brown bits from the sides and bottom of the pan. Add cream, bring to a light boil and then lower heat to simmer so sauce can “reduce”. If sauce gets too thick, add a little chicken stock until desired consistency. 

***If you haven't already, remove chicken from oven and layer 2 slices cheese on each cutlet. Return to oven so cheese may melt.

12. When cheese is melted, pull the casserole from oven and generously spoon sauce on top.

13. Now, enjoy this creamy, rich, flavor town in your mouth!  I made this for friends and family who are serious Laughing Cat lovers and they all allowed me to toot my own horn just after one bite of the luscious dish. 

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