After poaching boneless, skinless chicken breasts, my second favorite way to cook them is pounding them into paillards. It’s one of the few ways to cook them evenly without drying out at least part of them. Today, I’m going to spice them up with a quick barbecue rub instead of a wet marinade and then serve them in sandwiches, with or without barbecue sauce. I’m using the same rub I use for pork roasts and letting them marinate in it for about 2 hours. This rub sticks to both sides, even when the paillards overlap—don’t ask me how.
I didn’t use the classic butterfly method for paillards today, as I do when I have very large, thick ones. I posted a video once about using that butterfly method here if you’re interested: https://kitchenportfolio.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/nutty-chicken-paillard/ The package I used today had five breast halves that ranged in size from maybe just above average to small. None of them had the tender attached, which I would have removed and cooked separately, but I have left them on with some luck in the past. I just trimmed them, put them between plastic wrap with the underside of the breast up, and pounded them to about 1/4-1/2 inch. They may not have been uniform in size when I began, but they ended up uniformly thick for cooking evenly and quickly.
Pound to uniform thickness
Cover with dry rub and marinate
Grill for 5-10 minutes
Lots of options for eating
Great in a sandwich
Grilled Chicken Paillards
boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tender removed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
olive oil to drizzle on before grilling
- Place chicken breast, between sheets of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, pound the breasts until uniformly thick, maybe 1/4-1/2 inch. Decades ago, I used the bottom of a coffee mug to do this and it worked just fine. Some people use the side of a heavy tall can. Whatever you use, you just want to avoid tearing the chicken by accidentally using a sharp edge.
- Mix the dry rub ingredients and lightly rub into both sides of each breast. It made enough to do five for me. Lay the chicken breasts in a large dish, cover, and place in refrigerator for a few hours.
- Remove the chicken to come to room temperature while you prepare the grill to 350°-400°
- Drizzle some oil over each piece before you place it on the grill. Cook covered for a few minutes, then turn and cook covered for a few more minutes. You can use a thermometer inserted in the side to check for 145°-150° or just press with your finger as you would test the doneness of a steak. These cook really quickly and you don’t want to lose the juiciness of the chicken by overcooking.
- I had all my coals piled in the middle of the grill, so I cooked the three small ones and then the two larger ones.
- Serve as is with sides or cut to fit rolls and garnish with tomatoes and slaw. The seasoning was enough for us, but you could add barbecue sauce.
Chicken paillard coated with almond flour, that is. I often just pound the chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and throw them on the grill, and they are terrific that way, but flouring before frying adds nice browning and another layer of flavor. Today, I’m trying almond flour instead of all-purpose flour. I had wanted to try coconut flour, but couldn’t find any in my local store.
Here’s a video of the contemporary method of butterflying a chicken breast before pounding, but some people butterfly by cutting through one side almost to the other edge, and some people simply pound the whole breast. All these methods work, and if you accidentally cut through too far, just work with the pieces you get. The point is to have meat of all the same thickness that cooks very quickly. Keep trying, though, until you can get the lovely large pieces.
The video chef is right that chicken breasts are getting bigger and bigger, so I didn’t choose the method of simply pounding the whole breast. That would take a lot of pounding, and as it was, things fell off shelves from all my pounding. If you find a package of small chicken breasts, however, I do recommend that method rather than butterflying. I had three large ones; I cut one from one side to almost the other, and I did the remaining two using the method in the video. I did not remove the tender, but included it in the paillard, adding to their final size. As you can see in my photos, I put a hole in one, but otherwise, they came out pretty well. I cut them in half before dredging in the almond flour, just to make them easier to cook and turn in the large frying pan.
Nutty Chicken Paillard
boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can use ones with skin on, if you can find them)
1/2 cup almond flour per breast
salt & pepper
olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
- Butterfly large breasts, if desired. Place breasts between plastic wrap or in large unsealed plastic bags. Pound breasts to an even thickness of about 1/4-1/2 inch with a tenderizing mallet or even a handy kitchen object like a coffee mug with a flat bottom.
- Season paillards with salt and pepper, then dredge in almond flour.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. You are not deep frying the chicken, so you don’t need an amount of oil that comes over the tops. You can add more oil to the pan as needed, and can probably only cook one at a time.
- Cook each paillard for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until browned. It’s hard to get a thermometer in thin pieces of meat, so I use the test of pressing on the thickest parts until there is little resistance, the same method used to test steaks (see the method here: http://www.thecitycook.com/cooking/advice/general/000024). Remove to platter and cover with foil while you cook the rest.
They were really tasty and worth trying.