Grilling is one of my favorite cooking techniques. It's what I love to do all summer long. But during the cold, dark months of winter, it's practically impossible to fire up the grill outside, and who wants to stand out there in a parka. That's when a grill pan becomes my essential tool. Especially while I'm trying to eat healthy and fat-free, I like to prepare lean meats such as chicken, pork, or turkey, pounded thin, and grilled. The method of flattening meat is called "paillard" after the French restaurateur who invented it in the late 1900s. Pounding the meat, in this case chicken, ensures it will cook quickly and evenly on the grill. Each breast will have a beautifully seared exterior with a tender and succulent interior.
In this recipe I carry a citrus theme from the marinade to the zesty topping. Using lemons, which are currently in season, as my key ingredient, takes the flavors of the dish to a bright level while also serving to tenderize the meat. I marinate the breasts in lemon juice beforehand and use the citrus peel for the gremolata, an Italian concoction of chopped parsley, lemon peel, and garlic. These three ingredients combine to form one explosively flavored condiment. Traditionally used as a topping for ossobuco, gremolata pairs very well with a multitude of dishes, including grilled seafood and meats. It's a great idea, because each bite of this grilled chicken is packed with flavors that mingle harmoniously together, making an absolutely healthy dish seem downright decadent.
Grilled Chicken Paillard
Note: Before preparing the marinade, be sure to zest the lemons for the gremolata. This way nothing goes to waste in the preparation.
4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
2 lemons, juiced
freshly ground black pepper
fine sea salt
Place each chicken breast between layers of plastic wrap and pound with a smooth mallet to 1/2-inch thickness.
Combine chicken breasts, lemon juice, and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal and place on a dish to prevent any leakage. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high to high heat.
Pat chicken breasts dry. Liberally season each side with salt and rub with oil. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Top with gremolata. Yield 4 servings.
2 lemons, zested
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Combine lemon zest, garlic, and parsley in a bowl. Chill until ready to use. Yield: 1 cup.