Nordstrom’s Chicken Paillard
I’m not sure what’s so special about this dish. It’s salad and chicken, a meal that god knows I’ve eaten my fair share of throughout my short lifetime. And yet this meal feels pretty special, simply because the salad was placed on top of the chicken rather than alongside it.
Of course, this dish isn’t separated from others singularly by the placing of its parts. It all only really works because the salad is placed on a piece of chicken that’s been pounded flat (a paillard), and the bright flavors of the salad go along with rather than clash with the chicken. What the dish ends up being is basically a mess up crisp-tender vegetables and lettuces like asparagus, snap peas and red bell pepper piled on top of some quick pan-fried chicken that’s seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and whole-grain mustard. To finish, it’s dressed with a light dijon-tarragon vinaigrette, and the whole thing ends up tasting pretty awesome.
Chicken paillard, at its basic level, doesn’t imply anything about being topped with salad but rather just refers to the fact of chicken being butterflied and pounded out thin so that the whole thing is about 1/8-inch thick and pretty wide in diameter. However, judging by the looks of google results when you type in “chicken paillard,” I think it’s safe to assume that a lot of interpretations of this dish have ended up having with some sort of salad piled on the chicken.
This modern day assumption of chicken paillard is quite alright with me though, because I honestly thought making my way through this dish with vegetables and tender chicken and the light and tangy vinaigrette flavoring every bite was really refreshing. I think it’s something that I’m going to be making a lot of this summer, just because it manages to be substantial without being at all heavy. (By the way, a great side to round out the meal are these roasted smashed potatoes, flavored with thyme.) This version, with the flavors of mustard, spring vegetables, and tarragon is courtesy of Nordstrom’s interpretation of chicken paillard, but I’m looking forward to playing around with it more. Feel free to try out differing combinations of vegetables, seasonings and vinaigrettes yourself, depending on what’s in season or what you’re in the mood for. It is important to remember that this, at its core, is a pretty quick and straightforward dish—use whatever flavors in the form of vegetables or already-made vinaigrettes you already have lying around in your fridge.
Nordstrom’s Chicken Paillard
Adapted from Nordstrom’s Entertaining at Home Cookbook
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (at least 1/2 pound each)
3/4 pound asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pieces and ends trimmed
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
4 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
8 ounces mixed baby greens
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and julienned
3 plum or roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped roughly
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/3 to 1/2 cup dijon-tarragon vinaigrette (recipe below)
Using a sharp knife, butterfly each chicken breast by splitting each breast in half horizontally, leaving about 1/2-inch attached at one end. Working with one chicken breast at a time, open a breast out flat and place between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound the chicken gently, beginning from the center and working out towards the edge. Flatten until about 1/8-inch thick and about 6 or 7 inches wide in diameter. Remove the top of the plastic wrap, smooth a piece of parchment over the flattened breast, and then invert the chicken breast and parchment in order to place it, parchment side down, on a large plate to set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts, stacking them all on top of each other on the plate. Set aside and refrigerate until needed.
Meanwhile, blanch the vegetables. Have a large bowl filled with cold water and ice ready. Fill a 3 to 4-quart saucepan two-thirds full of water and a couple large pinches of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add chopped asparagus pieces and cook, uncovered, until bright green and crisp-tender without tasting raw, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a skimmer, remove the asparagus and immediately shock in the bowl of ice water. Once cooled, remove, drain well, and set aside in a large salad bowl. Repeat the same cooking and cooling process with the snap peas.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Meanwhile, spread a tablespoon of whole grain mustard evenly over the chicken breast on the top of the stack and season with salt and pepper. Leaving the chicken on the parchment (it helps the chicken to retain its shape while cooking), carefully flip the chicken breast into the skillet, parchment side up. After about a minute of cooking, remove the parchment sheet. Continue to cook the chicken until lightly browned on the first side, about a minute longer. Using a wide spatula, flip the chicken and cook until cooked through, about a minute or two longer. Once fully cooked, transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and keep warm in the preheated oven. Repeat this process of heating a tablespoon of oil in the pan while seasoning the chicken with mustard, salt and pepper, and then cooking the chicken through with the remaining 3 chicken breasts, cooking them one at a time and keeping the cooked chicken breasts warm in the oven.
In a large bowl, combine the greens, red bell pepper, tomatoes, carrot, asparagus and sugar snap peas. Drizzle with the dijon-tarragon vinaigrette to taste—I only ended up using about 1/3 or 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Toss it all together gently to coat.
To serve, top the chicken breasts with an equal amount of topped salad. Serve with additional dijon-tarragon vinaigrette on the side (I liked the chicken by itself with it).
Makes about 3/4 cup
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
In a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the garlic, mustard, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper and process until thoroughly until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. Add the tarragon and pulse a couple of times to combine. Transfer to a small container or jar and refrigerate until needed.