If you wonder what the term chicken paillard (pronounced pie-yar) is, it is a French term for pounding chicken breast until it is thin. The breast is then cooked quickly by grilling or sauteing. You can also apply this pounding technique to beef, pork, and turkey.
Why Pound the Chicken?
Pounding the chicken has two benefits: One, it tenderizes the chicken, and two, the thinness makes the chicken cook quickly. The pounding step might seem like a lot of work, but it is easy to do. First, cut the chicken into pieces. Then cover it with plastic wrap (or place it in a resealable gallon plastic bag with the air removed) so all the mess from pounding is contained by the plastic. Use the smooth side of a meat mallet to pound the chicken until it is thin–anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Make sure the chicken is pounded to an even thickness to help ensure that it cooks evenly and quickly.
What to Use in Place of a Meat Mallet?
If you don’t own a meat mallet, don’t worry because you can still make this dish. Try using a rolling pin, iron skillet, or even the bottom of a heavy metal or plastic cup.
Are Canned Mushrooms a Good Substitute for Fresh Mushrooms?
The recipe calls for fresh mushrooms for this dish, but you can substitute a large jar of canned sliced mushrooms if that is all you have on hand. Just be sure to drain them well before adding them to the skillet.
If you haven’t used leeks in your cooking before, they are a vegetable that looks like an extra-large green onion. Leeks are a member of the same onion family as shallots, garlic, chives, scallions, and green onions. They have a milder taste than onions, and in some parts of the world, people prefer them over onions. In addition to their delicate flavor, they are filled with nutrients. But maybe best of all, they don’t make you cry when you chop them!
To prepare a leek for use, cut off the upper dark green top, which is tough. This top green part can be cooked in soups to impart flavor–just remove it before serving. This recipe uses the white and light green leek parts. Be sure to rinse it well because dirt can hide in its layers.
Is there a Substitute for Leeks?
You can substitute scallions or onions for the leek in this recipe.
Can this Dish be Made Gluten-Free?
Yes, it is easy to make this dish gluten-free. First, make sure you purchase gluten-free chicken stock or cook your own. Then substitute gluten-free flour for regular flour. I list two brands in the recipe notes that I like to use that produce good results.
What to Serve with this Dish?
This dish goes well with rice, asparagus, and a green salad with vinaigrette salad dressing. It is an easy dish to cook for guests.
Troubleshooting Problems with Chicken Breast
There are usually two problems that occur with chicken breast.
- The first is called woody chicken, and it occurs as the chicken grows. If you have ever bitten into a piece of chicken that is hard to chew, then you might have had a woody chicken breast. In this type of chicken breast, the muscle fibers have hardened. This condition is usually found in a small percentage of chickens bred to grow as large as possible very quickly. Pounding the chicken breast can actually help tenderize some woody breasts. But don’t worry, although it is unpleasant to bite into a woody breast, it is not harmful to eat one.
- The other problem is overcooking chicken breast, making it rubbery and dry. To avoid this, cook the chicken for less than five minutes on each side because thinly pounded chicken breasts cook so quickly. Use a meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. You can remedy an overcooked chicken breast by using a sauce on it to mask the dryness.