Paillard of Chicken with Orange and Cardamom
It seems the busier L. and I get in the studio, the more our kitchen becomes a source of mental nourishment. Sometimes it's a visit with an old friend, when we make something we prepare frequently. Or a trip home when we cook a family recipe. Sometimes we are artists, improvising a new creation.
Palliard of chicken with orange and cardamom is a weekend getaway.
Not the relaxing getaway where you loll around contemplating the sounds of the ocean, but the reinvigorating vacation where one afternoon you are absorbing Caravaggio's chiaroscuro lighting, the next, shopping for earrings on an old bridge, then waving to Tuscan sheep as you zip by on a moped.
You see, when you make this dish, there's lots of different and deliciously brief activities. Pounding, squeezing, beating, slicing, playing with fire. You even get a 30 minute orange and cardamom aromatherapy siesta if all that activity proves too much.
There are two steps that I enjoyed immensely. The first is pounding the chicken. You might think that this is a good way to work out your frustrations, but if you pound too hard, you will tear the chicken breast. This requires pounding with love, with a motion that starts in the center of the breast and moves outward. You can pound hard at first, but then you must do it tenderly, till the breast is a fragile 1/8 inch thick. This is not impossible, although I too had my suspicions as my 2 inch thick Rosie organic chicken breast called me into the ring.
And then there's the requirement for previously flamed cognac. We tried lighting it with matches, but they simply fizzled out. So out came the blow torch usually reserved for creme brulee. Seconds later, blue flames dancing in a white bowl in the dark kitchen were mesmerizing. Turn off the lights to fully appreciate the show.
By the end, you have totally escaped your working world and are also rewarded with a tasty dinner. The chicken is tender, subtly voicing a spiced flavor. But the marinade sauce sings a bold aria to the orange cardamom combination. Wonderful!
Paillard of Chicken with Orange and Cardamom slightly adapted from Paula Wolfert's World of Food.
1 whole chicken breast, deboned, skinned, and sliced in half
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup fine-ground breadcrumbs (optional - it would be great with just a dusting of flour instead of the crumbs - that's how I am going to make it next time)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
12 julienne strips of orange rind, blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes to remove bitterness
1/2 cup fresh orange juice - that was 1 1/2 oranges but of course it depends on the size and juiciness of your oranges.
3 tablespoons Cognac, previously flamed
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Salt and Pepper
- My favorite step : Flame the Cognac
- Place the breast pieces skinned side down on a plastic cutting board or Silpat and pound with a smooth meat pounder to 1/8 inch thickness. If the meat gets too sticky, you can cover it with plastic wrap, and then pound.
- Combine the marinade ingredients - the orange juice, Cognac, orange rind and cardamom in a bowl and add the chicken. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. (Ms. Wolfert warns that over-marinating will make the flesh mushy.)
- Drain the chicken, season with salt and pepper and dust it with flour. Optionally you can dip it in the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumbs. Leave it on a rack to allow the coating to set, at least 5 minutes.
- Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 of olive oil to a saute pan and heat until sizzling and just beginning to brown. Add the chicken and cook until golden on the first side, about 2 minutes, and then flip and cook for another minute on the other side. Remove the chicken breast from the pan.
- If any fat remains, pour it off. Add the marinade and the rest of the butter to the pan and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Plate the chicken and pour sauce over the breast or pour the sauce on the plate and place the chicken on top. Decorate with the julienned orange strips and serve at once.