Chicken Paillard with Zucchini, Basil & Parmesan Salad

FRIDAY

Chicken Paillard  |  Zucchini, Basil & Parmesan Salad  |  A Parmesan & Olive Oil Mash

Intro Collage

When we lived in Healdsburg, a charming small town in Sonoma County, California, we ate well…very well.  Among our choices when it came to dining out…all things pig {handcrafted salumi & bacon for starters} and house made gelato at Bovolo, Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, Willi’s Seafood Bar, Doug Keane’s Cyrus...just to name a few.  But there was one spot in particular that became a regular favorite for us…Ralph’s Bistro.  We knew Ralph {our kids were friends and classmates} and eating in his restaurant was like dining at a friend’s house.  Both the atmosphere and the food were unpretentious and Ralph made a mean martini {which, when sipped while enjoying “a plate of a thousand fries”, became dinner once or twice}.  One of our very favorite plates at Ralph’s was the chicken paillard…a chicken cutlet, pounded wonderfully thin with a salty bite and a bit of crunch.  That paillard was the inspiration for this evening’s dinner.

I had planned to prepare this version {which we really like} but I recently came across a new recipe that I wanted to try.  A very simple recipe with all of the right ingredients…flour, lemon, herbs, salt, oil…what could go wrong?  Well, in a word, “thickness”…when making a paillard, pounding the meat to the right thickness {or rather “thinness”, I usually favor ½-inch at the most} is of critical importance, at least in my opinion.  A well-pounded cutlet will yield meat with an incredibly velvet-like texture.  I usually pound my own chicken breasts but thought I would get a jump on preparation today by having our local market handle this task.  As it turned out, the cutlets were not thin enough and the resulting chicken resembled an average chicken breast, albeit well-seasoned.  No fault of the recipe’s, the flavor was there but the texture didn’t even come close.  I look forward to giving this recipe another try soon.

Chicken Paillard {adapted from Eat Boutique}

  • 5 skin-on boneless chicken breasts {tenders removed to be prepared and cooked separately}
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup coconut flour (for dusting)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme finely minced {plus a few extra sprigs for garnish}
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place two pieces of chicken between 2 sheets of wax-paper or plastic wrap; using a mallet, pound chicken until ½-inch thick. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
  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 a large cast-iron skillet {or other 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 wedges alongside.

Chicken Seasonings Collage

Chicken Cutlets Collage

Moving along, I received a new cookbook today…Polpo ~ A Venetian Cookbook {Of Sorts}, by Russell Norman.  It is beautiful, from it’s unusual open binding {the book is sewn together with red silk thread} to the vintage-style paper used for it’s pages.

Polpo Collage

This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from Mr. Norman’s London restaurant ~ Polpo.  In his introduction to the book, the author writes…

“The menu in POLPO is uncomplicated and the carefully researched dishes are all made with relatively few ingredients.  There is no show-off cooking or complex technical artistry.  The menu’s appeal is that it keeps things simple…We have a rule that a dish is ready to put on the menu only when we have taken out as many ingredients as possible.  As Antoine de Saint~Exupéry said: ‘Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away’.”

This philosophy resonated with me and made me urgently want to cook from it’s pages.  The salad below accompanied our chicken this evening…

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Zucchini, Basil & Parmesan Salad {adapted from Polpo}

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan
  • Flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 large handful of rocket {arugula} leaves
  • 1 small handful of basil leaves
  1. Whisk together the lemon juice with the olive oil, Parmesan and some salt & pepper.  Set the dressing aside.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, finely slice the zucchini lengthwise into ribbons and place in a large bowl.  Add the rocket {arugula}, basil and enough of the dressing to lightly coat.  Taste, adjust the seasonings if necessary, and serve immediately.

Zucchini Salad Collage

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Ralph’s “plate of a 1,000 fries” {the best heap of the thinnest fries you can imagine sprinkled with chives and salt} is special but since I do not fry food here at home an adaptation was not to be had this evening.  The chicken paillard really pairs well with a salty potato and tonight’s version is courtesy of Nigel Slater via his cookbook Tender.  I brought a little of Ralph’s to this dish be adding a handful of chopped fresh chives.

A Parmesan & Olive Oil Mash {adapted from Tender, by Nigel Slater}

  • 1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Finely-grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh chives, finely chopped {a handful or to taste}
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Boil the potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water.  When they are tender, drain them and then set aside for a few minutes in the empty pot covered with a kitchen towel.
  2. Mash them {either with a hand masher or an electric mixer}, beating in a few tablespoons of olive oil followed by the Parmesan cheese and chives.  The mash should be smooth and slightly glossy.

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And, the finished dinner plate…

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