Sometimes stretching an ingredient — making it feed four instead of two — can be detrimental to a dish, but on rare occasions it can actually make it better. Case in point: Pan-fried chicken breasts.
The breast is not my favorite part of the bird — that would be the thighs — but when I find the cut on sale, I pick them up because they are versatile, filling and easily adaptable to different seasoning blends and cooking methods.
Still, the meat can be bland, and often the breasts are too thick for my liking; that’s when the stretching comes into play.
To make the pieces more palatable and provide a better ratio of meat to seasonings or sauce, especially when simply pan-frying them, I like to turn them into cutlets. A chicken cutlet is simply a breast sliced in half into two thinner pieces. (You can buy cutlets as well, but often buying the unsliced breast is cheaper.)
For DIY cutlets, use a sharp knife to cut horizontally through each breast so the meat opens like butterfly wings. Then, carefully separate the halves. Remove any visible fat or sinew. Then, if you want them even thinner, place each cutlet between two pieces of wax paper and use a meat tenderizer or skillet to pound each cutlet to desired thickness. I usually like about 1/4 inch.
Once you’ve created your cutlets, they will cook quickly in a saute pan with olive oil and a few shakes of your favorite seasoning blend. Another option is to use them to make Chicken Parmesan, or you can fill them with cheese, greens and seasoning and roll them into mini roulades to then pan-fry or bake.
Or you can do a variation on paneed chicken, which is my absolute favorite way to eat them.
For a super-thin crust, simply dust the pieces with a thin layer of seasoned flour. If you want a thicker crust, dip the cutlet into an egg wash and then into the flour. For an even crunchier crust, dip them in egg and press them into a mixture of seasoned flour, panko and grated Parmesan.
To finish, fry the battered cutlets in a small amount of butter or olive oil in a skillet until they are browned and cooked through. It should take less than 10 minutes in the pan. (When I make them with the panko and grated cheese, I can eat them straight from the skillet, with a grating of fresh black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. So good.)
If I’ve got a good sauce, then the dusting of flour is all I want. Recently, I made a lemon-thyme sauce that was delicate and light-flavored, with artichokes and just a touch of cream. I thought it would go beautifully with the thin, crisp chicken cutlets. And it did.
Served atop farro and steamed broccoli, the recipe resulted in a filling, not-too-pricey dish that I’d serve to company, too.
Chicken Cutlets with Artichokes and Lemon-Thyme Sauce
Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
This dish comes together quickly, especially if you can find thin chicken cutlets at your grocery store. The bit of cream brings the artichoke hearts and thyme together for a satisfying sauce.
Serve over a cooked grain, such as farro, and with a steamed green vegetable, such as broccoli.
Leftover chicken can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.
For the chicken
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken cutlets (about 1 pound total)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
For the sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup no-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
1 (14 ounces) can artichoke hearts, drained
1 tablespoon lightly chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)
1. In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, cumin, onion powder, thyme, if using, salt and pepper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Then, lightly coat the chicken in the seasoned flour.
2. When you’re almost done coating the chicken, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until just shimmering.
3. Shake off any excess flour and lay the chicken cutlets flat in the hot pan, in batches if necessary, without crowding the pan. Sear, flipping once halfway, until cooked through and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes total. If cooking the chicken in batches, add oil to the pan as necessary.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest.
5. Transfer the chicken to a plate and loosely cover with the foil to keep warm.
6. Add the broth to the pan, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Continue to cook until reduced by a third, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream mixture and cook, whisking until thickened, about 1 minute.
7. Add the artichokes and fresh thyme and cook about 1 more minute. If the sauce is too thick, add broth, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper, as needed.
To serve, spoon the sauce over each chicken cutlet and garnish with additional fresh thyme leaves and Parmesan, if using.
NOTES: To keep the chicken warm while making the sauce, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet, lightly cover with foil and place in the oven until ready to serve.
A chicken cutlet is a chicken breast sliced in half and, if necessary, pounded to an even thickness. If you can’t find cutlets at your grocery, make your own. Use a sharp knife to cut horizontally through each breast so the meat opens like a book; separate the halves. If desired, place each cutlet between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper. Then, using a meat tenderizer or small, heavy skillet, pound each cutlet until they are about 1/4-inch thick. Trim away any fat or sinew, if desired, and proceed with the recipe.
Nutrition | Per serving: 276 calories, 30 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 93 mg cholesterol, 576 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar
Adapted from Eatingwell.com