Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lemon Chicken Paillard with Pancetta and Spinach

So, like most Americans, I overdid it this Thanksgiving.  This morning, I just looked at a pair of pants and the button popped off and damn near blinded me. 

I don't understand people who watch what they eat during the holidays.  I can diet when I'm dead.  With that said, I don't like it when my pants are tight so I try to balance over the top indulgence with some lighter dinners during the week. 

Okayyyy okay, you caught me.  Lighter doesn't usually include butter, olive oil, and heavy whipping cream but because we are using a little more fat here, I left out the starchy carbs and replaced them with sauteed spinach.   Also, the fat is used sparingly (ahem "sparingly") so it isn't THAT bad.  Oh and there is pancetta.  Shhhhh, it's fine.

Here are our ingredients for today:

Skinless Chicken Breast
Unsalted Butter
Olive Oil
White Wine
Fresh Baby Spinach
Milk/Greek Yogurt/Sour Cream (Optional)

For some reason I had the term chicken paillard stuck in my head.  I have absolutely no idea why or how, but I looked it up to see what it was.  Sometimes I make things up that don't even exist.  Luckily today, this was not the case.  All paillard refers to is quick cooking, thinly sliced or pounded meat.  Sounded like a good plan to me.  I grabbed the last freezer bag I had left and my trusty mallet. 

Pound your chicken out so it's thin, but not paper thin.  Maybe like 1/2 inch thick or so.

So my pans are NEVER this clean.  Please don't let me fool you.  This seriously must have been brand new and jammed in the back.  Anyway, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes so the oil is super hot and slides quickly and easily all over the pan.

While the pan is heating up, season one side of the chicken.

Place the chicken season side DOWN, and then season the other side as well.  Crank the heat to just under high.  As you'll see, I went a little sprinkle happy with the course sea salt.  I didn't really realize how much I put on until it was in the pan, so I just compensated by not adding salt to the other components to the dish.  Not really what you're supposed to do, but since I used the same pan for everything it worked in this case.

Cook each side of the chicken for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.  If you don't want your chicken to stick - don't touch it.  Put the chicken down in a super hot pan then LEAVE it until it starts looking opaque around the edges.  Then you can take a peek.

While the chicken is sizzlin, finely chop your shallots.  I don't really cook with shallots a lot but I think I'm going to start.  Shallots are part of the onion family, but they form like garlic cloves.  I sort of think of them as a hybrid of sorts.  They are milder than an onion and just give a hint of savory flavor. 

Garlic makes everything taste good.

I was feeling lazy so I just rubbed the garlic cloves on a micro plane.  This is also a good way to make a paste so you avoid big chunks o' garlic.  The worst thing EVER is biting down a huge piece of raw garlic.  OMG the thought alone is enough to give me heartburn.

Ok, remove your cooked chicken and set aside.  Now we have this, crispy little brown bits we want to revive.

Pour in some white wine to deglaze.

Add about half of the garlic we pastified.

Let is simmer and reduce a bit to cook off that raw wine flavor.  Add a pat of butter.  Helllooooo friennnnnnnnnnnnd.

See! I promised.  HEALTH.  Greens.  Something besides butter and bacon!  Add an entire bag of baby spinach once the butter has melted.

Let it cook for a few minutes until all the leaves wilt.

Throw the spinach into a bowl and set aside with the chicken.

I'm so into pancetta nowadays.  I might never cook with bacon again.  HAAAAAAAAAA I'm so funny.

In the same pan that was cooking the spinach, add your pancetta.

 Let it get nice and brown and pretty.


Okie doke, now throw in your chopped shallots and add in the rest of the garlic into the crispy brown bits left over from the pancetta.  I suppose I should have drained the pancetta fat, but there really wasn't that much. 

Let the shallots lightly caramelize but not burn.  You just want them very soft and transparent looking and just the lightest shade of golden brown.

When life hands you chicken paillard, squeeze a lemon. 

Deglaze the pan again with some more white wine.

Then add the lemon juice.

Let it simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until it's reduced by about 50%.

You can see how much the sauce tightened up here.

Add a splash of heavy cream.  Now, do not ask me why the cream doesn't curdle when you add it to the lemon juice that's been cooking.  Does anyone know why it doesn't curdle?  Alton Brown, where are you when I need you.

Throw in a pat of butter.  So it was still SUPER tart when I tried this, so I also threw in a splash of whole milk.  You could also add some sour cream or some Greek yogurt as well.  You can also throw in more cream, which is what I wanted to do, but I'm trying to be good here.  The sauce is supposed to be very lemony and bright but you just want to make sure you balance it until it's at the tartness level you like.

I think that throwing a piece of meat on a plate with a side looks sloppy and uninspired.  In the same amount of time you can make something look special.  Start by placing some of the spinach in the middle of the plate.  Lay a piece of the chicken on top.

Now, get some of our creamy lemony sauce and drizzle it on top.  Now get whatever pancetta you didn't eat and sprinkle on top.

I thought it need a little color so I added some roasted cherry tomatoes to the side. So easy.  Put them on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until they start to burst.  Finish with a little basil and voila - a side dish with flavor and color.  Stay semi healthy once in awhile and for goodness sake, always stay hungry!

Chicken Paillard with Pancetta and Spinach
2 Skinless Chicken Breast
2 Tbs Unsalted Butter
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Cup White Wine
1 Lemon, Juiced
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Large Shallots
1 Package Fresh Baby Spinach
4 Slices Pancetta
2 Tbs Cream
Optional:  1/4 Cup Whole Milk

Pound out chicken to 1/2 inch thickness.  Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.  Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside.  Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup of white wine and had half of garlic that has been turned into a paste with micro planer.  Simmer and return heat to medium.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter.   Add baby spinach to skillet and let it wilt into sauce, about 3 minutes.  Remove and set aside.  Add second tablespoon of olive oil.  Add chopped panchetta.  Cook until golden brown and remove onto plate with paper towel to drain.  Add chopped shallots and remaining garlic paste.  Stir.  Add rest of wine and juice from 1 lemon.  reduce down about 50% over medium heat.  Add cream and taste.  If it's too tart, add some milk, Greek yogurt, or even sour cream.  Add second tablespoon of butter.  Take spinach and pile on plate.  Drape piece of chicken over.  Pour a few tablespoons of the lemon sauce on top and sprinkle with pancetta.  YUM.

1 comment:

  1. The cream does not curdle when added to the lemon juice because cream has a much higher fat content (then say milk does). Due to its high fat, lemon juice does not curdle it.
    (just learnt this fact in culinary school)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!