Cumin and paprika add plenty of flavor to Spicy Grilled Chicken Paillards, but not much heat, as do orange juice, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon and red pepper flakes to the sauce. Recipes below.
Marion has accused me in the past of being a culinary Francophile. And I’m the first to admit she’s right. Casting about for some grilling ideas for this week’s post, I came across a chicken recipe that called for chicken breasts sliced or lightly pounded into flattened pieces. If they’d used the modern term for this thin cut of meat, cutlet, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance. But no, they used the older French term, paillard [pronounced pah-YAHR], apparently named for a late 19th century Parisian restaurateur. Okay, I was interested.
I say “apparently” because, while food sources told the above story, numerous online French-English dictionaries made no mention of Monsieur Paillard or his cutlet. Instead, every last one of them defined paillard as some variation of bawdy, coarse, rude, lewd, libertine… Given the origin of Blue Kitchen’s name, I was of course totally hooked now. I had to make some bawdy chicken.
The first step was to find a recipe or some recipes to play with. After looking at a number of them, I landed on one with Moroccan influences. Considering Morocco’s French ties, it seemed like a good way to go. As with many North African savory dishes, it includes sweetness, a little heat and the ubiquitous cumin. The heat in this case is extremely subtle—mainly you notice a wonderful mix of flavors.
Paillards aren’t always chicken. They can also be made from boneless slices of turkey, veal, beef and pork. Because they’re so thin—typically a mere 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch thick—they’re meant to be cooked quickly. That makes them perfect for weeknight meals or anytime you have lots of other things you need to be doing rather than cooking.
Pounding the chicken—or any other meat—into thin slices also beautifully tenderizes it. Even cheaper, tougher cuts of meat fare well with this process. You can sauté paillards, cook them in a grill pan or actually grill them as I did here.
Spicy Grilled Chicken Paillards
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon mild honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 [3-inch] cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika (not hot)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
salt to taste
Get charcoal started on grill. Or if you’re using a gas grill, do do that voodoo that you do so well.
Prepare chicken. Trim the tenderloins from the chicken breast halves [a chunk of meat often attached to the underside of the breast]. Place each breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound with flat side of a meat mallet until about 1/4-inch thick or so. Or you can use the bottom of a heavy skillet as I did, not being able to find our mallet. And actually, I think the skillet worked better, flattening the entire paillard more evenly. I placed a cutting board under the meat to protect the countertop.
Make sauce. Simmer all sauce ingredients except butter in a 1-quart saucepan, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Set aside while cooking chicken.
Make paillards. Cook cumin, paprika and pepper in oil in a small skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer spiced oil to a small bowl, reserving skillet for sauce [do not clean].
Brush some spiced oil on each side of paillards, then season with salt. When charcoal is ready, spread evenly in one layer and put grill in place. Oil it lightly and arrange paillards on grill. Grill 2 minutes, then turn over and grill until just cooked through, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a platter and cover with foil.
Finish sauce. Pour sauce through a medium-mesh sieve into reserved small skillet, discarding solids. Add any juices from chicken accumulated on platter to sauce and bring to a boil. Add butter and swirl skillet until butter is just incorporated. Season sauce with salt and spoon over chicken. Serve.
Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 6/25/2008
Second Helping: A simple, elegant, summery dessert. Apricots are in season right now. With a little sugar, a little water, fresh rosemary and about ten minutes in the kitchen, you can turn them into a light, sophisticated French dessert. Recipe at WTF? Random food for thought.
Smash it up: Punk rock Swedish style. The [International] Noise Conspiracy delivers political, radical punk you can dance to—in an exciting music video and on one of the best rock albums in our collection—at What’s on the kitchen boombox?