Chicken Paillard with Lemon Orzo

Chicken breast is such a staple in my kitchen, but sometimes it can feel a little repetitive and a bit boring.  I compensate by trying to hide it within elaborate casseroles or stews, but there’s no reason why chicken breast can’t take the spotlight of the meal, if it’s cooked correctly.  This Chicken Paillard is an elegant dish that comes together in just minutes and showcases the chicken as the star of the show.  It’s neither bland nor boring, and is a great dish to make if you find yourself in a weeknight meal rut.

Chicken Paillard is something I like to cook when I really don’t have time to cook much at all.  Paillard simply refers to a tender, boneless cut of meat that’s been butterflied or pounded thin.  I prefer to butterfly the meat because it’s faster and doesn’t make as much of a mess.  By dusting the chicken with flour and searing it in a skillet before placing in the oven, you seal in the moisture and flavour. The entire cooking process takes about 10 minutes with a few seconds to finish under the broiler for a crispy golden crust.  I serve the chicken on a bed of tender baby greens, dressed in a little olive oil and lemon juice.  It couldn’t be simpler and  I always have these in the fridge – I wash them as soon as I bring them home from the store so that they’re ready to use whenever I need them.  Alongside, I make a quick lemon orzo with feta that also comes together in just minutes.

There’s nothing saying you can’t cook an elegant meal on busy weeknights.  I hope this inspires you to make something a little special tonight.

Lemon Orzo with Feta

Chicken Paillard

Chicken Paillard with Baby Greens

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil + 1 tsp for the greens
salt and pepper, to taste
Several handfuls of mixed baby greens (spinach, chard, kale, arugula)
1 lemon, quartered
Sel gris (French Grey Sea Salt), to finish

Place an oven rack about 8 inches from the broiler and preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C.

Butterfly the chicken breasts, cutting all the way through so that you have 4 thin cutlets.  Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken in the flour, knocking off any excess.

Place a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and the butter.  When melted and bubbly, place the chicken in the pan.  Sear until the bottom side is golden brown.  Turn the chicken over and immediately transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Bake for 4 – 5 minutes longer.  Leaving the pan in the oven, turn on the broiler to high. Cook until the chicken is golden brown and crispy on the top, about 1 minute longer.

While the chicken is cooking, place the greens in a large bowl and toss with the remaining olive oil.  Squeeze over 1 quarter of the lemon and toss again.  Divide the greens evenly between two dinner plates.

When the chicken is done. Remove from the oven and place on top of the greens.  Sprinkle the chicken and greens with a generous pinch sel gris and serve with the remaining lemon quarters.

Orzo with Lemon and Feta

1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
1 1/2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
a large handful of chopped parsley
3/4 cup crumbled feta
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the orzo in boiling water according to the package directions.

While the orzo is cooking, place the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Drain the orzo and pour it into the serving bowl over the dressing.  Toss well until the orzo is evenly coated with the dressing. Stir in the feta and parsley. The heat of the pasta will soften the feta. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper in necessary.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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