Chicken Paillard with Olives and Lemon

I’ve never been one for French cooking.  Yes, load me up with some tasty French food and I’m a happy girl but French cooking has always seemed difficult and something all together “other”.  I’m sure Julia Child is rolling over in her buttered grave as I type this but it’s always been my estimation that French cooking is best done by trained professionals.  I never wanted to be the one who “broke” the sauce, or didn’t get the aspic to gel correctly.  It all seemed just too complicated so in true Jamie fashion, I steered clear.

Which makes the fact that I’m about to lay down a French recipe for you something of miracle.

About a year ago while at a restaurant in Corona Del Mar I ordered Chicken Paillard.  I knew it was of French origin and had heard of paillard’s many redeeming qualities including its ability to turn dry, tasteless chicken breast into something magical.  And this particular paillard rendition was just that...magical.  Crisp on the outside, moist and juicy on the inside and perfectly paired with a sun-dried tomato and shittake mushroom sauté, I could not have been happier with my choice.  The real stunner though was how obviously easy the dish was to make.  Pound chicken, cook on both sides, make a sauce, serve, DONE!  This truly was French food made easy and I was all about it.  So all about it in fact that it took me a full year to finally recreate the dish.  What can I say, there were other things on my plate.  ;)

So here it is!  In pure Jamie style I didn’t have sun-dried tomatoes or shittake mushrooms so I made a makeshift olive and lemon type thingy to put on top of the chicken.  I don’t really know what to call the sauce.  All I know is that it’s crizazy good.  How can I make such a claim?  Because when I served it to my dear friend Tanya she asked when she was invited over for dinner again.  (I don't know Tanya, let me see if I can squeeze you in.)


Quick note before you dive in.  With chicken paillard there must be something to put on top of it otherwise you are looking at a plain chicken breast ala your George Forman grill years.  If you aren’t into olives, that’s fine.  Top the dish with a spring salad, a quick shallot and caper dressing or dijon vinaigrette.  Though the chicken is flavorful without it, the topping, whatever it is, takes it to the next level.

Smacked chicken goodness!

Chicken Paillard with Olives and Lemon

Serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Sea salt and black pepper

Splash of extra virgin olive oil or a 2 teaspoons organic lard

1 lemon

1 tablespoon organic butter

1/3 cup red onion, diced

1/3 cup kalamata or French cured black olives, chopped

Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound the crap out of them until each piece is an even thickness of 1/3 inch. This can be done with a meat pounder or if you don’t have one, like myself, use the back of a small sauté pan.  This is quite fun!

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place a glug or two of olive oil or lard in a medium fry pan and swirl to spread the fat.  Heat until shimmering, 30 to 60 seconds.

Place the chicken breasts in the pan. Cook 3-5 minutes or until undersides are golden brown.  Reduce heat to medium, turn chicken and cook again until golden brown and chicken is opaque in center, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon.  Transfer chicken to a plate and place in a very low oven (150 degrees) to keep warm.

Return the unwashed pan to medium heat and swirl one tablespoon of butter into the pan. Add the onion and stir for a minute, then add the olives.  Let cook until the onions have softened, about 2 minutes.  Season with a squeeze of lemon.  Remove the chicken from the oven and top the chicken with the olive mixture.   Serve with this killer salad and enjoy!

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In the comments below tell me, what type of recipes do you now make that used to freak you out?  What was the one dish you never though you'd make?  What are you tips to overcoming recipe intimidation?

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