In this simple dish, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are pounded into thin cutlets, pan seared (or grilled) then bathed in a warm lemony dijon vinaigrette infused with pan drippings. This recipe is a French classic and one every home cook should have in their repertoire!
Paillard, is just a French term for a chicken (or veal) that has been pounded thin and cooked quickly. When I worked in a French restaurant this was the go-to chicken we used to top salads or serve as an entree accompanied by side dishes liked Pommes Puree and Sautéed Mushrooms.
I like to serve chicken paillard with a smattering of fresh greens — like watercress or frisée — and a lemony mustard dressing that get a quick swirl around in the pan the chicken is cooked in to soak up any drippings and golden bits of fond.
Alternatively – Chicken Paillard can be grilled rather than pan-seared. See more info on this in the recipes notes section of the recipe card below.
Ingredients You’ll Need:
Boneless, skinless chicken breast, olive oil, lemons, dijon mustard, garlic, shallot and fresh thyme.
Scroll to the bottom of the recipe card for ingredient notes and substitutions.
Tips for a Perfect Paillard
- Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness. They don’t need to be paper thin, the goal is more to get them to a uniform thickness so they cook evenly.
- Use kosher salt.
- Lay the chicken in the pan working away from you—this will protect you from getting splattered with hot oil.
- Use a heavy bottomed sauté pan conducts heat evenly and recovers its heat quickly. I prefer stainless steel over cast iron for cooking chicken breast.
- Take your time. Let the chicken get a nice golden brown crust before flipping them in the pan.
Recipe Step by Step:
Step 1. Pound the Chicken into Cutlets
Place the chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap then use a meat tenderizer or rolling pin (or wine bottle in a pinch!) to pound the chicken breasts into uniformly thick cutlets, about 1/2-inch thick. Note: If the chicken breasts you’ve bought are really massive you may want to slice them in half horizontally and make each breast into two cutlets.
Step 2. Season
Sear the chicken in a preheated skillet over medium-high heat. Take your time with this, allow the chicken to turn golden brown and get a good crust on the surface. While the chicken is cooking whisk together the vinaigrette.
Step 3. Sear
Once fully cooked, remove the chicken from the pan and turn off the heat. Let the skillet cool down for 2-3 minutes then pour in the vinaigrette. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the delicious bits of golden brown drippings on the bottom of the pans surface. Pour the vinaigrette over the chicken and serve right away.
Want to grill your chicken paillard? Find grilling instructions in the recipes notes section of the recipe card below.
FAQs and Expert Tips
Paillard is a French term for a boneless piece of meat that has been pounded thin, like a butterfly cut. This has the dual benefit of tenderizing the meat and creating a thinner cut that cooks faster with less moisture loss. Traditionally, paillards are made with chicken or veal, but they can also be made with other meats, such as pork, lamb, or fish.
Chicken Paillard is great as a protein topper for all kinds of salads like; Dandelion Salad with Pecorino and Lemon or Herb Salad with Shaved Parmesan. It also makes for a beautiful main course when paired with side dishes like; Smashed Red Potatoes with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary, Olive Oil Roasted Leeks, Warm Grilled Vegetable Salad and so much more!
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Chicken Paillard with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast about 3 pounds
- kosher salt between 2-4 tablespoons depending on the size of your chicken breast
- 1-2 tbsp neutral oil like safflower or grapeseed
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 small shallot minced
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves only, stems discarded
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- a few handfuls of fresh greens like watercress or frisee for serving optional
- Lay the chicken breasts between two large pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound them with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin until they are uniformly 1/2-1/4-inch in thickness. Season both sides liberally with kosher salt.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Pour in a few tablespoons of neutral oil, just enough to lightly coat the surface of the pan in a very thin layer. Carefully, lay the chicken into the pan, working away from you to reduce splattering. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches. Don't overcrowd!
- Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking until the chicken is browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the second side is nicely browned, about 5 or 6 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, make the dressing in a small bowl. Start by whisking together the lemon juice, mustard, shallot, garlic and thyme then, while whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil until the dressing comes together. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat and transfer to a platter to rest. Allow the pan to cool down for 2-3 minutes (it should still be warm but not screaming hot) then pour the dressing into it and swirl the pan to coat the surface. Use a wooden spoon to stir the dressing and scrape up any bits of golden "fond" that may be stuck to the pan. Note: if you've accidentally burned or scorched the pan, not a problem, just skip this step and continue on!
- Pour the vinaigrette from the pan over the chicken. Garnish with fresh watercress or frisse and serve immediately.
- Chicken Breast: If possible, choose chicken breasts that are all similar in size, about 8-10 oz each. If they’re really massive you may want to slice them in half horizontally and make each breast into two cutlets. Chicken thighs will work for too!
- Shallot: Red onion is a good substitute for shallot.
- Thyme: Dried thyme can be substituted for fresh. Alternatively, fresh herbs like; rosemary, oregano or chives would all be just as lovely.
- Light your grill and heat to high. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well: Fold a paper towel into a tight pad. Dip it in a small bowl of oil, and, holding it at the end of your grill tongs, draw it over the bars of the grate.
- Arrange the chicken breasts diagonally on the grill grates, grill the chicken for 5-7 minutes then flip to the second side and cook for another 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cutlets. If any flare-ups occur, simply move the chicken to a cooler section of the grill.
- Transfer the chicken breasts to a platter or plates. Spoon the vinaigrette over them and serve at once. Season to taste.