Chicken Paillard

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Chicken Paillard

I’m always looking for new ways to cook your basic chicken breast, but I always fall back on the best recipe: Chicken Paillard. Denise’s version keeps the skin on, but it works well for skinless chicken breasts as well. -Maggie

I have fond memories of my great-aunt puttering around the kitchen. She was always getting her hands dirty whether it involved making a treat for us kids or preparing dinner for her own family. Food was certainly involved if she was found in the immediate area.

We lived in a little pink house, directly behind Tia Anne. Often, after school, I would tumble through the back door into her cozy kitchen to be greeted with a platter of cookies on the table and warm coffee percolating away on the stove. While I sat at the worn wooden table, cradling a warm cup of milk with a splash of coffee, she would be browning butter and fresh cloves of garlic. I inhaled that moment, every single time. There truly is nothing like the smell of browned butter and garlic. She would proceed to take a piece of fresh meat, often lamb (as we are of Basque heritage and that is a staple), and she would pound it thinly with a worn wooden mallet. Down would come the mallet with a heavy hand, flattening the meat, until it was thin enough for a quick fry. After dusting it with a flour, she would quickly cook the meat in the browned butter. I was waiting near by with a spoon to scoop out the small pieces of browned meat. To this day, I eagerly wait for the browned pieces of meat, flour and butter to remain in the bottom of my cast iron skillet.

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Little did I know that this method of cooking has been coined by the French as Paillard, meaning it is simply thinly pounded meat which is dusted lightly with flour, then fried until a crisp crust is achieved. Chicken Paillard is often enjoyed in our house, especially when we are busy and do not have a lot of time to prepare a meal. This is a guaranteed home-cooked meal that pleases every time.

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Making Chicken Paillard is effortless. Pounding the meat until thin is key to evenly cooking the chicken for this recipe. As my great aunt did, I use a meat mallet and pound the meat from the thickest point, working my way to the thinnest. This technique works for me. Then I lightly dust the meat with a coating of flour and finely minced thyme. To keep the dish flavorful, I melt a small amount of butter with olive oil, then gently brown one side of the chicken until a golden crust develops; this does not take long. After this step, I slide the frying pan into a preheated oven and let the breasts continue to cook. I find that this method makes for an evenly cooked piece of meat that is moist and juicy. All that is left to do is enjoy the simplicity.

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Chicken Paillard

Inspired by my great aunt and Bon Appetit Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 8-ounce skin-on boneless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour (for dusting)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Place chicken between 2 sheets of wax-paper; using a mallet, pound chicken until 1/2-inch thick. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Sift the flour onto a plate. Mix the fresh thyme with the flour.
  3. Dust the chicken with flour; shake off excess. You want a very thin coating.
  4. Melt butter along with the olive oil in an oven proof frying pan.
  5. Place chicken in skillet skin side down. Cook, occasionally pressing on chicken with a spatula so skin maintains even contact with skillet, until skin is brown, 5-6 minutes.
  6. Flip the chicken over. Transfer skillet to oven; roast until chicken is just cooked through, 8 - 12 minutes. Timing depends on how your oven heats up.
  7. Remove skillet from oven. Let stand in skillet for 1 minute.
  8. Transfer chicken to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with lemon halves alongside.
Photos styled and taken by Denise Woodward.

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