Chicken paillard is an Italian classic recipe that’s easy and perfect for grilling season: thin cutlets of boneless chicken marinated in lemony dijon vinaigrette, grilled, and topped with arugula salad.
Chicken paillard is regular summer weeknight dinner at my house. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are pounded thin so It only takes a few minutes on a hot grill to cook them to juicy and tender perfection. The Italian way is to mound a heap of lemony arugula salad on top. The flavors are bright and summery: peppery arugula, sweet ripe cherry tomatoes, savory grilled chicken and a lemon dijon vinaigrette to tie everything together. For an extra treat, serve chicken paillard with crusty bread and chilled white wine.
If you don’t have a meat mallet (I didn’t for years) you can easily flatten a chicken breast using a rolling pin. Hold it by one handle and gently pound the chicken breast, starting at the middle and working towards the edges. Don’t pound too hard or the chicken will break. The goal is to get the chicken to a uniform thickness of 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch.
Once you’ve pounded the chicken breasts into thin “paillards,” use a portion of the lemon dijon vinaigrette to marinate them. They need at least a half an hour in the marinade.
I first learned about chicken paillard in Italy. You’re going to hate this story, but here goes: As a teenager I travelled to Italy with a girlfriend and we dieted the whole time. Not a bite of pasta or bread for 10 days while touring Rome and Florence. We basically lived on peaches, arugula, and veal or chicken paillard. Despite the fact that I had a mild starvation headache the whole week, we had an enjoyable trip, seeing the sights and shopping. If you are thinking “who in their right mind would travel all the way to Italy and not eat the food?” I am wondering the same thing even though that person was me! Despite serious missed opportunities for pasta and prosciutto and such, the summer peaches were spectacular and so was the chicken paillard with arugula salad.
Some positives came out my dieting in Italy. Firstly, when I look back on some of my teenage choices it makes me a more sympathetic parent to my own teenagers and their “interesting” choices. Secondly, I discovered my love for chicken paillard. Lastly, it gave me the resolve never to miss out on any delicious food, anywhere, ever again.
Here’s the recipe for chicken paillard. I can’t wait for you to try this. If you do, I hope you’ll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I’d love to know what you think.Print
Thin scallops of chicken, marinated in lemon dijon vinaigrette, grilled and topped with arugula salad. An easy Italian classic recipe that’s perfect for summer.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 6 mins
- Total Time: 26 mins
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Main Course
- Method: grill
- Cuisine: Italian
For The Marinade/Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 a small garlic clove, finely minced or pressed in a garlic press
- 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- Several grinds of fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
For The Chicken
- 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- Kosher salt
For The Salad
- 8 large handfuls of arugula (about 8 ounces), washed and dried
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and sliced in half
- Lemon wedges, to garnish
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly pour in the oil while whisking, until emulsified. The marinade/vinaigrette can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before using.
- To pound the chicken, put one chicken breast half into the center of a large ziplock baggie. Press out the air and seal mostly, leaving small air hole so the bag doesn’t pop. Use a meat mallet or a rolling pin to pound the breast firmly but gently, starting at the middle and working towards the edges, until you get it to an even thickness of 1/3 to 1/4 inch. Repeat with the other 3 half breasts. Spread 1/4 cup of the marinade/dressing over the bottom of a non-reactive baking dish or plastic container. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least a half hour and to 4 hours.
- Heat the grill to medium-high (about 400ºF) Remove the chicken from the marinade, season it with a little salt and grill it for 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through. The juices should be clear when pierced with a knife.
- Divide the chicken among 4 plates and drizzle a teaspoon of vinaigrette over each paillard. Toss the arugula and cherry tomatoes with 5 or 6 tablespoons of vinaigrette and mound the salad on top of the chicken. Add fresh ground pepper, to taste. Place lemon wedges on the plate to garnish. Serve warm, with crusty bread on the side.
Keywords: Grilled marinated chicken cutlets with arugula salad