Bawdy chicken: Spicy Grilled Chicken Paillards

by Terry B on June 25, 2008

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
Serves 4

For sauce:
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

For paillards:
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?


{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

19thmayflower June 25, 2008 at 4:01 am

sounds delicious!!!
i’ll copy the recipe, if you don’t mind :-)

Alanna June 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm

So charcoal requires no voodoo? Pray tell!

Terry B June 25, 2008 at 2:15 pm

19thmayflower—Thanks for stopping by—and copy away! That’s why we food bloggers do what we do. If you post it anywhere, though, please give credit and a link. My friend Ronnie Ann over at Work Coach Cafe has found her posts on another blog that is apparently made up entirely of purloined articles by other bloggers with only the tiniest of links back to the original sources. That is decidedly not cool.

Alanna—Oh, charcoal requires plenty of voodoo, but it’s the devil I know. I’ve never used a gas grill, so I don’t know when one should fire it up in preparation for cooking.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) June 25, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Whenever I make paillards on the grill, I overcook them. I get seduced by the quick-cook aspect, but then I throw them on the grill and forget that they really do cook quickly! Ah well, this recipe sounds wonderful, and even though I use a gas grill, I’ll give it a try.

Terry B June 25, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Lydia—The quick cooking time really has me enamored of paillards. I’m not one of those anti-gas grill zealots, by the way. I’ve just never had or used one. And honestly, because these cook so quickly and without the lid on the grill, the smoke flavor that charcoal imparts was only barely discernible. So the gas grill would be fine with this and probably a lot more convenient.

grace June 25, 2008 at 5:39 pm

AWESOME combination of flavors. just plain awesome. there’s nothing wrong with being a francophile if this is the kind of thing you cook up! :)

[email protected] June 26, 2008 at 10:50 am

bawdy chicken?! fantastic!

looks amazing and love the combination of flavour. it must taste wicked!

Mary Coleman June 26, 2008 at 11:49 am

I laughed out loud when I saw the possible Mme Paillard’s picture.
The chicken looks so good. I’m with Lydia, I do have a tendency to overcook these, but I want to try I’ll overcome my fear of overcooking and give it a shot!! Great post!

Terry B June 26, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Grace—I’m actually proud of my Francophile status. During the whole “Freedom Fries” lunacy, I made a point of drinking French wine.

diva—Thanks! It has a nice complexity to it, with all the flavors playing a part.

Thanks, Mary! Monsieur Paillard was a lucky fellow, wasn’t he? I’m sure the neighbors gossiped, though.

Helmut June 27, 2008 at 9:08 am

That naughty French Postcard is a lovely touch. The chicken sure looks tasty! Lucky, lucky Monsieur Paillard!

Carey Ellen June 27, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Love the posts- I look forward to getting this and tonight will be bawdy indeed! I’m making watermelon mint juleps from Cuisine at Home to accompany this for a nice fresh summer supper.

Terry B June 27, 2008 at 8:18 pm

Helmut—Yeah, but from what I’ve heard, she wasn’t much of a cook.

Carey Ellen—Watermelon mint juleps? When should we come by?

Carey Ellen June 27, 2008 at 11:03 pm

I should really check my postings- BAWDY!
The first step is complete (5 cups cubed watermelon, 2T sugar 1T + fresh lime juice, 1/2 cup (+) bourbon and 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves) sitting in a bowl waiting for the ingredients to get to know one another. Then mash it with a potato masher then strain through a sieve – serve with a sprig of mint in glasses of ice. Will report back on how easily they slide down… should be ready in about an hour :-) that’s 5:00 Pacific time.

Terry B June 28, 2008 at 3:08 am

Carey Ellen—And here I sit stone cold sober! Do share how they turned out, please.

ann June 28, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Ooooh, that does sound good. I’m still waiting for my first opportunity to grill stuff this summer… Someday, soon, I hope! I’ll have to keep this one in mind for when the opportunity does in fact arise. Oh lala as they say in France! Bawdy chicken, cest magnifique!

Christina June 28, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Simple, sweet, and a little spicy (in more ways than one)–how can you go wrong with a dish like this? My regular paillards are pork tenderloin. I buy the whole tenderloin, cut it into 1 1/2 inch rounds, then pound each round flat. I season them any number of ways and throw them on the grill or in a hot pan. They’re done in no time and are DELICIOUS.

The postcard cracked (get it? Ugh, a pun!) me up.

Terry B June 28, 2008 at 9:50 pm

ann—Since the chicken is on the grill for such a short time, a grilling pan would work just fine. On the other hand, you could also grill some vegetables and then throw the chicken on the grill at the very end for a quick dinner.

Christina—Pork tenderloin for paillards sounds excellent. I’ll have to try that. And with a pun like that one, I’m sure you hold your own with your high school students!

evi June 29, 2008 at 12:43 am

This recipe looks great. I usually run in the other direction when I see the term paillard – I had no idea what it meant. It just seemed out of my income bracket. I LOVE the postcard!

Carey Ellen June 29, 2008 at 9:19 pm

ok, so the watermelon juleps were outstanding. I don’t really like bourbon but this was quite an experience. The recipe made about 4 drinks.
We had one before dinner, and one with- a nice sweetish counter to the chicken. Delightful.

Esi July 16, 2008 at 9:39 pm

I love grilling chicken paillards, but rarely do they come out as pretty as yours. I will have to try this recipe some time.

Tess July 18, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Hey, Thanks so much for another great recipe. I am very excited to give bawdy chicken a try. I loved the post card, it was a great touch.

I just rewatched the video with those great tips and tricks for grilling and saw they had some great grilled veggie ideas. What veggies would you suggest with this chicken?

Terry B July 18, 2008 at 3:45 pm

evi—I often get fixed ideas in my head that end up having nothing to do with reality.

Carey Ellen—Just bought some watermelon. I see booze in my future.

Thanks, Esi! Do give these a try.

Tess—Thanks again for the great video link. For vegetables, you might try grilled zucchini and asparagus.

Sharon June 19, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I wanted to know that issue the watermelon Juleps were in?

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