“Paillard” is a fancy-sounding word for a boneless piece of meat that’s pounded to a uniform thinness and quickly sauteed or grilled — a super-easy and healthy technique to have in your back pocket on nights you’re craving some extra protein but don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen. This method works especially well with chicken breasts, which can be challenging to cook evenly and keep them from drying out without the skin. With just a few ingredients, you can whip up a pan sauce to turn them into a restaurant-quality feast. Since the chicken is skinless, you should be able to allow yourself a little butter. Tangy bursts of citrus segments balance the richness. Serve with roasted potatoes and steamed kale. Serves 4. -- Susan Puckett
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 4 chicken cutlets)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus a little more, if needed)
2 to 3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
¼ cup thinly sliced shallot
Juice and segments of 2 lemons or limes, 1 orange, or a combination (see note)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Segment and juice the citrus: Cut a thick slice off both ends of the fruit with a sharp knife. Stand the fruit on a cut end and slice off the peel and white pith. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl.
Working over the sieve, use a paring knife to cut toward the center of the fruit to release each segment from the surrounding membranes. Squeeze any extra juice from the peel and membranes into the bowl before discarding. Reserve the citrus sections and juice separately.
Prepare the paillards: If chicken breasts are thick, slice through each one horizontally along one long side with a sharp knife without cutting completely through, so that they open and lay flat like a book.
Place the cutlets between sheets of parchment or plastic wrap and pound with a meat pounder or heavy skillet to an even thickness of about 1/3 inch. Take care not to pound too hard and rip the meat. If the pieces are very large, cut in half so that you have 4 cutlets total.
Season both sides of the paillards lightly with salt and pepper, and set on a plate near the stove, along with a clean plate.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter foams, add 2 paillards, and sauté on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, flip the paillards and sauté until cooked through, about 2 minutes more.
Transfer to the clean plate. Raise the heat to medium-high and repeat with the remaining paillards.
Add the sliced shallots to the skillet and cook and stir over medium heat, adding a little more oil if needed, until golden, about 1 minute.
Raise heat to medium-high. Add the reserved citrus juice, chicken stock, and any plate juices, scraping up the brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Simmer until the sauce reduces by half, about 3 minutes. Add the citrus segments and remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and stir until just melted.
Transfer the paillards to serving plates and top with some of the sauce and parsley, if using.
Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.