You’ve undoubtedly eaten chicken on top of a salad. Spoiler alert: this is salad on top of chicken. But I like it better for a few reasons:
1. The thin chicken breast makes it less prone to overcooking.
2. The chicken cooks faster.
3. We eat with our eyes, and this just looks fancier.
Chicken paillard is a French cooking term for chicken that has been pounded thinly and then grilled. That’s exactly what I did here. After placing a chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap, I pounded it gently until it was ½ inch thick. You could use a rolling pin, a meat mallet, or even the side of a tin can like I did.
Since the chicken breast is now thin, it’ll cook quickly on the grill and the uniform shape makes it less prone to drying out. And while the chicken cooks, you can make the rest of the salad ingredients.
I love the contrast between sweet and salty, so I opted for the addition of candy-sweet medjool dates, salty Parmigiano Reggiano curls, and lightly salted pistachios to pair with a basil vinaigrette.
Most grocery stores carry medjool dates in either the produce aisle or the bulk foods aisle. I’ve tried my fair share of medjool dates, and the freshest dates I’ve come across can be found at Walmart from a company called Bard Valley. When they dates are fresh, they’re super sweet and squishy—almost juicy even though they are a dried fruit.
Since you’re only using a few for the salad, you’ll probably have some dates left. This is a very good thing. Bacon wrapped dates is one of my favorite appetizers, and always the first to disappear at a party. I also love dates for a pre-workout snack: I split them open, remove the pit, and spoon a little peanut butter inside. The dates are so sweet that it’s reminiscent of a peanut butter cup.
I chopped several dates for this salad, and then shaved some Parmigiano Reggiano. This is not the stuff in the green can! The Parmigiano Reggiano will be labeled as such and is sold in chunks that are ½ pound or so. It’s imported from Italy, hence the slightly premium price of $5–$6 per half pound. I think the flavor and authenticity of the cheese is well worth the price, and buying a chunk of it allows you to use a vegetable peeler to create beautiful curls. I ran the peeler along it like I would a carrot, applying pressure along the whole length of it to get longer curls.
Pistachios add a nice crunch to this salad. I buy them already shelled so I can just put them on salads or eat them by the handful.
Finally, I made a basil vinaigrette to top the salad. Best of all, it’s made in the blender so no whisking is required. The fresh, herby taste pairs really well with the arugula. I used about half of the recipe when dressing the greens, and then drizzled the rest of the vinaigrette on top of some heirloom tomatoes the next day. It would be delicious with some fresh mozzarella, too!
The nice thing about this Chicken Paillard is that it’s a whole meal in one, but I couldn’t resist some bread on the side. I halved a mini baguette and brushed it with olive oil and minced garlic. Then I grated a fair amount of the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano, sprinkled it over the baguette, and stuck it under the broiler. The result is a tasty spin on garlic bread: soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, plenty of garlic flavor, and a nice salty kick from the melted Parmigiano Reggiano.
Give this a try for dinner, and let me know what you think!
Chicken Paillard with Arugula Salad and Basil Vinaigrette
Yield 2 servings
For the salad:
- 2 (6 oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 cups baby arugula
- 3 medjool dates
- 1 oz chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 tablespoons shelled pistachios
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the vinaigrette:
- 1 (.75 oz) package fresh basil (about 1 cup, loosely packed)
- 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan over medium high heat.
- Place each chicken breast on a 12 inch square piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Place another 12 inch square piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper over the top. Using a rolling pin or meat mallet, pound the chicken to ½ inch thickness. You could also use a tin can to pound it out.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken for 3–4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, place the basil, shallot, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a blender. Blend on high until the vinaigrette is smooth, approximately 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender if necessary.
- Chop the medjool dates into ¼ inch pieces. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmigiano Reggiano into curls.
- To assemble, place the arugula and half the vinaigrette into a large mixing bowl. Use clean hands to gently mix the salad (many metal utensils will damage the arugula). Add more vinaigrette if desired. Add the dates, pistachios, and Parmigiano Reggiano curls, and toss gently.
- Place the grilled chicken on two plates and top with the salad. Serve immediately.
Use any remaining Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to make my Garlic Parmesan Bread!
Garlic Parmesan Bread
Yield 4 servings
- ½ french baguette or 1 mini baguette
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
In the oven:
- Preheat the broiler to high and position an oven rack 5–6 inches below the broiler.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the baguette in half lengthwise. Place the baguette halves cut side up on a baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to brush on the olive oil and then use the back of a spoon to spread on the minced garlic. Sprinkle with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Place the baking sheet under the broiler and broil for 2–3 minutes, or until the cheese is light brown.
On the grill:
- Preheat the grill to medium high.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the baguette in half lengthwise. Place the baguette halves cut side up an 18 inch piece of aluminum foil. Use a pastry brush to brush on the olive oil and then use the back of a spoon to spread on the minced garlic. Sprinkle with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Carefully close the foil over the top of the baguette, folding it to enclose the bread.
- Place on the grill and close the lid. Grill for 8–10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bread is warmed through.