The Poultry Pound Party: Elevate Your Weeknight Dinner with Chicken Paillard

Chicken Paillard

This chicken paillard recipe is a wonderful way to serve up chicken breasts. Chicken breasts are lightly pounded until tender into escalopes and then served with a rich and piquant caper, olive and shallot sauce. It is then finished with crunchy toasted almond flakes and rocket salad on top. This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

Chicken Paillard is one of the best weeknight dinners that feels as if it belong firmly at a dinner party because it is so delicious. It is wonderful because it is quick to make and can be cooked in one pan. It also uses ingredients that you probably already have sitting in your fridge door. I first heard about it when I was watching a tv show (The Other Two) and they mentioned this dish and off I went!

What is Paillard? The term "paillard" is an old French term that refers to a culinary technique involving pounding or flattening meat, usually poultry or veal, into thin and even slices. Nowadays people tend to use the term "escalope" instead of paillard. Flattening the chicken serves multiple purposes: it allows the seasonings to infuse the meat, promotes even cooking and reduces the likelihood of the meat becoming dry before it is fully cooked.

Don't have a meat mallet? Try using a French rolling pin or even a small skillet. Just cover the chicken breast with cling film and bash! Other tools are potato ricers, wooden spoons (hold them flat), or roll over them with cans or an empty wine bottle.

What to serve with Chicken Paillard? Chicken paillard goes really well with potatoes. I like serving it with Brabant potatoes or home fries. A Classic Green Salad also goes well as does mashed potato.

Chicken Paillard

One of my favourite days is when I have a lot of time to make recipes in my kitchen when I don't have to rush off somewhere or have a meeting or call. It makes things much calmer and I can take time to make the food, photograph it and write out the recipe. This dish is one of those great dishes that doesn't take long to make once the ingredients are prepped so it really benefits from having a mise en place. And you can do all of the chopping and measuring beforehand and then just cook them all once you're ready.

Chicken Paillard

There was only one problem that took me out of the zone. When it came to the capers I opened up the jar and stuck a teaspoon in and of course it wouldn't fit. I know this because every time I get capers I still try and stick a teaspoon in and it never fits and yet I still try it as if it will change proportions. I end up flipping the spoon around and digging out the amount of capers needed with the handle of the spoon. Sometimes I dig around for a tiny demitasse spoon that I bought just for this purpose but it's usually at the bottom of the drawer and sometimes it's easier to use the handle of the spoon.

Chicken Paillard

I started getting curious as to why caper jars are always this problematic. Some just say that capers need to be immersed in brine or they'll dry out. But so will other pickles and truthfully will they dry out that badly? I often see capers packed in salt. I actually couldn't find a good reason why capers needed to be in a tall narrow jar so I decided that I wasn't going to be part of this caper (haha!) and decanted them into a shorter, slightly wider jar where I could easily fit a teaspoon in. And I don't think I'm the only one because when I put this up on my Instagram stories, it became the most popular thing I've ever put up with 20,000 views!

So tell me Dear Reader, what method do you use to get capers out of the jar? Have you ever tried chicken paillard?

Chicken Paillard

Did you make this recipe? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4 people with a side dish

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts (around 250g/8.8ozs per breast)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons/40ml/1.4flozs oil
  • 40g/1.4ozs butter, divided in two
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 3 teaspoons capers (baby capers ideally)
  • 90g/3ozs pitted green olives, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup/125ml/4flozs white wine or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds and rocket or frisée salad to serve

Note: please have all the ingredients ready to cook before starting. The dish cooks quite quickly.

Chicken Paillard

Chicken Paillard

Chicken Paillard
Right side fillet after pounding

Step 1 - Place the flour in a shallow large plate. Take the chicken breast and cut into the thickest part of the top of the breast. Slice through and you should end up with a heart shaped chicken breast. Cover with cling film and pound with a meat mallet using the smooth side so that the breast is uniformly thin around half a centimetre thin or a quarter of an inch. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge through the flour.

Chicken Paillard

Chicken Paillard

Step 2 - Heat a frying pan on medium high heat and add the oil and half of the butter. Pan fry two of the paillards at a time, they will take up the whole pan. Cook for 5 minutes turning halfway. Place the cooked paillards on a serving plate and cook the remaining 2 paillards.

Chicken Paillard

Step 3 - Add the remaining half of the butter to the pan and saute the shallots and capers until the shallot is soft and fragrant. While it is cooking mix the garlic, Dijon, honey and lemon juice into a paste. Add this to the pan once the shallots are cooked with the olives and sauté for 1 minute. Then add the wine or stock and allow to simmer until the sauce reduces and becomes velvety (it should take less than 5 minutes to do this). Spoon this mixture all over the chicken paillards. Add rocket on top and toasted almonds and serve.

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