I’ve been cooking my way through Ian Knauer’s The Farm, a collection of rustic, seasonal recipes from a former Gourmet food editor’s family farm. Even though I hold a deep-seeded distrust of the boneless, skinless chicken breast (pasty, bland, dry, boooring), this Farm recipe caught my eye (all that gorgeous green!) and with Ian’s promises of big flavor and juicy chicken, I relented. I’m so glad I did.
Smashing the chicken into a thin, even layer (use a meat mallet or the palm of your hand) tenderizes the meat and ensures a even, lightning-quick cook time on the grill, and the mustardy, garlicky rub does indeed pack a ton of flavor. (That paillard business is an awesome technique I’ll be using again on busy weeknights. Well-seasoned, juicy, and fast.) Perhaps the real magic, though, comes from those beautiful spring vegetables: snappy snow peas, sweet shelled peas and dainty pea shoots, with a lovely bit of lemony brightness in the background. Serve this healthful dish on a big platter (entrée, side dish and salad on one plate!) with a bottle of crisp Chenin Blanc or fizzy Italian soda. Spring!
Mustard-Garlic Chicken Paillards with Spring Peas
adapted from Ian Knauer’s The Farm; 2012
for the chicken:
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 3/4 pounds total)
- two large garlic cloves
- 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon)
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest (preferably from a Meyer lemon, if you can find them)
- 1/4 tsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
- freshly ground black pepper
- vegetable oil, for the grill
- handful of pea shoots, for garnish
for the peas:
- 1/2 lb snow peas
- 1 1/4 lb shelling peas (I used English peas) or one 10-oz package of frozen peas
- 4 scallions, roots trimmed and finely chopped (green and white parts)
- one tablespoon green garlic, finely chopped (optional)
- one tsp finely grated lemon zest (preferably Meyers)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- one tsp kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Let the chicken come to cool room temperature while you prep the ingredients. First make a rub for the chicken: mince the garlic with 1/4 tsp of the salt, smashing the mixture with the back of your knife to make a slushy paste. Transfer to a small bowl and mix with the mustard, lemon zest, remaining teaspoon of salt and some grindings of pepper. Set aside.
On your worksurface, sandwich one or two of the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap. Whack them with a tenderizing mallet (I used a hammer) or the palm of your hand until they’re flattened and an even 1/2″ thickness. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Spread the mustard rub over the chicken and set aside.
Shell the peas from their pods. Trim the ends from the snow peas and slice them diagonally into thirds. Preheat your grill and then prep the rest of the pea ingredients.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium and add the scallions and green garlic, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the snow peas, shelled peas, salt and pepper; stir and continue to cook until tender and a bright Kermit green, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest. Set aside.
On a clean, well-oiled grill grate, cook the chicken (turning once) for about 4 minutes, until cooked through or 165 degrees when tested with a meat thermometer.
Arrange the chicken on a clean platter. Scatter the pea mixture on top of the chicken (warm the sauté pan directly on the grill if the peas have cooled off too much, though they don’t need to be piping hot). Garnish with pea shoots, if using. Serve.
Note: most produce suffers in the freezer, but peas are a happy exception. Out of season, use frozen and pan-fry the chicken breasts instead of braving the elements outdoors.