Why settle for another boring chicken dinner, when you can make chicken paillard? By pounding out the meat so that it's much thinner, the chicken cooks quicker and sears beautifully.
There is no denying that I love a good chicken dinner. While I’m a strong proponent of the sentiment that #ThighsSaveLives, I’m not one to discriminate against a chicken breast, either. However, this often-times, too-thick-for-its-own-good cut of meat can be a real pain in the ass. Between excruciatingly long defrosting times, struggling to get the inside of it to fully cook without burning the outside (remember, nobody wants to eat medium-rare chicken), and lacking new and exciting ways to flavor the meat, there is ample reason to feel worn out on chicken from time to time. If you’re all up in that same lean protein rut, it’s time to whip out your guns (as in, your arms…) and start pounding.
What is traditionally referred to as paillard, pounding meat to thin it out is a classic French technique. While the term “paillard” comes across super intimidating because it sounds like a small, picturesque village tucked away on the French Riviera, it’s actually an extremely approachable and accessible technique for the average home cook. Aside from the obvious perk that it allows you to release those demons and channel your physical energy into a hearty hunk of raw meat, paillard decreases your cook time drastically because the cut of meat is much thinner.
Because your meat is so thin and pliable, you also have the option to fill it with veggies, cheese, sausage, or whatever you damn want, and roll it up into a bundle of joy. Also, let’s not forget that thinning your meat out creates the illusion that your portion is much bigger than it actually is. Rather than a dense, nugget-like chicken breast, your beautiful paillard stretches across your plate like the fine a$$ piece of meat that it is. Have I convinced you to try it out? I feel like I have.
If this is your first go-around with pounding meat (chicken, pork, and steak all work just fine), there’s a couple things to keep in mind. If you don’t have a meat mallet, don’t sweat it. The bottom of a heavy skillet, a canned good, a rolling pin, a heavy water bottle, or a hammer (damn, son), all do the trick. It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t be directly striking your meat. Line it with plastic wrap or slide it into a sealed zip-top bag. Now, find the drummer inside of you and go to town. Aim to get your meat to about a ¼-inch thickness.
If you want to bread your chicken, now would be an extremely opportune time to do so (any excuse to mention the word “schnitzel” seems like a good one). Milanesa is also another legitimate option for your freshly-hammered meats. You can also opt to toss your pounded meat in freezer and save it for a night when you get home and you’re so hungry you could just about eat off your arm. That thin beauty will defrost in no time. There’s no need to continue on your monotonous, meat-eating ways when all you need is a little protein and a whole lot of upper body strength (not really) to transform any ol’ dinner into a lean, delightful, ~French-inspired~ meal.