Chicken Paillard with Arugula Watermelon Salad

fullsizeoutput_a733IMG_9038Chicken paillard is one of those classic dishes that is elegant – and hard to pronounce –  yet is a surprisingly simple dish to make and one of my absolute favorites to order on a menu! Paillard is actually just a French term used to denote a piece of chicken or veal that has been pounded very thin or butterflied. The beauty of chicken paillard is that by pounding the meat very thin before pan-searing it over high heat, you get a crispy, yet evenly cooked piece of meat that is still tender and juicy. The trick really is to cook it in a very hot pan to achieve the trademark sear and desired doneness. Otherwise, it will take twice as long to cook and the juices in the chicken will leak out, resulting in a dry, bland piece of meat.

Although it might seem like an intimidating dish to pull off, it just requires a sense of confidence in the kitchen. Don’t fear the crackling sound the chicken makes when it hits the pan or the oil splatter that naturally happens when you make paillard – it’s totally normal and just means you are getting down to business! And most importantly, resist the urge to lift up the chicken from the pan to check browning every 10 seconds. Just let it do its things and you will achieve a beautiful paillard!

Paired with a summery watermelon, arugula salad with a lemon-mint vinaigrette, this meal is a light and summery take on a traditional chicken paillard. Unlike most chicken paillard recipes, this version also uses gluten-free flour, which works just as well as regular all-purpose flour. Paillard does not require flour necessarily, but a light dusting of flour helps to create a crispy, brown crust on the chicken. If you prefer though, you can skip the flour coating all-together and still achieve a golden-brown crust without flour. Either way, this dish is bursting with flavor and perfect for any gathering. I hope you love it and would love to hear if you make it!

Tips for Cooking Chicken Paillard:

  1. Don’t use olive oil: Until very recently, I used olive oil for virtually everything. However, olive oil is not an all-purpose vegetable oil and is not suited for high-heat cooking because it has a lower smoke point than other vegetable oils. When cooking at high heat, I like to use canola or avocado oil instead. Not to mention, these oils are essentially flavorless meaning they won’t affect the taste of anything you season and/or marinate beforehand.
  2. Get that chicken real thin: While it may seem like you are pounding your chicken too thin, the meat will “puff up” the moment it hits the pan, so I like to pound mine to an almost-paper-thin thickness (1/4 inch or even 1/8 inch thickness).
  3. Use a good pan: Although you don’t need to splurge on a $200 state-of-the-art pan, I recommend using a carbon steel pan or cast-iron skillet. They retain heat very well which helps the chicken sear to perfection!
  4. Splatter-guard your surroundings: I learned the hard way that if you don’t prepare properly, you can end up with oil splattering everywhere. I usually keep a towel on hand to wipe up any splatter that hits the countertop and put a baking sheet up against the backsplash as a safeguard.
  5. Let your chicken come to room-temperature: I am always wary of leaving chicken out too long before cooking it, but it is especially important when pan-searing or grilling chicken that you let it come to room temperature. Take your chicken out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before it hits the pan. This step ensures that your meat cooks evenly and greatly reduces the risk of splatter when the chicken hits the pan because it prevents excess moisture from leaking.
Chicken Paillard with Watermelon Arugula Salad

Chicken Paillard with Watermelon Arugula Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 24 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 39 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 5 oz baby arugula
  • 4 oz crumbled feta (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup candied pecans
  • 8 oz watermelon cubed (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour
  • lemon zest to garnish

Lemon-Mint Vinaigrette:

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 mint leaves
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chopped shallot
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Start by butterflying the chicken breasts and placing them between two sheets of saran wrap or in a large plastic bag. Pound the chicken with a meat mallet to 1/4-inch thickness. Run your hand across the top of the filets to make sure they are an even thickness. Set aside once done.
  2. In a food processor, combined the lemon juice, olive oil, shallot, mint, mustard, honey, and salt and blend. Store the dressing in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  3. Coat the bottom of a cast-iron skillet/pan with canola oil (about 1/8 inch deep) over medium-high heat.
  4. Lightly season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides and use a sieve to sift a light coating of flour over each side of the chicken. Shake to remove any excess flour.
  5. Taking one of the pieces of chicken, place the chicken in the pan away from you and let it cook for about 3 minutes on each side until the chicken develops a crispy golden-brown coating. Once you remove the chicken from the pan, place it on a plate and allow it to cool for 3-5 minutes. Pat dry of any excess oil.
  6. Move over to the salad and add the arugula and cubed watermelon to a bowl and toss in half of the dressing. Add more dressing as desired, then plate the salad and chicken. Top the salad with crumbled feta and candied pecans and zest fresh lemon over the chicken, then it is ready to serve!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 477Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 8.1gCholesterol: 98mgSodium: 617mgCarbohydrates: 15.8gFiber: 5.2gSugar: 5.5gProtein: 29.8g

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