Flattened Chicken Paillards with Green Garlic-Parsley Pesto and Carrot-Cilantro Mash

Photo by Michael Piazza

A basic flattened, breaded, shallow-fried chicken breast serves as the beginning of so many meals, from all around the globe. Smothered in mozzarella and red sauce, it’s “chicken Parm”; served with spaetzel and sauerkraut, it’s schnitzel; sliced and served with sushi rice and a sweet, soy-based barbeque sauce, it’s tonkatsu. Once you get the technique down, you can make a big batch and freeze them, ready to cook, garnish and serve at a moment’s notice. If you can’t find green garlic for this recipe—prevalent at local farms from May thru June—use 4 scallions and 1 whole garlic clove instead.

Serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups fine dry breadcrumbs or panko
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
½ cup finely minced cilantro stems
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 cups flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
4 stalks green garlic, trimmed and thinly sliced
½ cup blanched almonds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil
Armenian string cheese (with nigella seeds), pulled, for serving (optional)
lemon wedges, for serving

Place 1 chicken breast into a zip-top bag and pound flat with a mallet or the bottom of a small saucepan. Remove to a platter and repeat with the remaining 3 breasts; season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.

In 3 shallow bowls place the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs mixed with ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, in that order. Dredge each chicken breast in flour, shaking to remove excess, then coat in egg before pressing into the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure both sides’ crumbs adhere well, then arrange on a baking sheet and refrigerate 15 minutes.

Bring a saucepan filled with salted water to a boil and add the carrots and cilantro stems. Reduce to a simmer and cook gently until very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until a coarse mash forms; continue pulsing to a purée. Add the cilantro leaves and vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper; pulse to combine, then scrape back into the saucepan, cover and keep warm. Rinse the bowl of the food processer.

In a skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the green garlic and almonds. Sauté, stirring, until the garlic is wilted and the almonds begin to brown. In the cleaned food processor bowl combine the parsley, green garlic and almonds. Pulse until blended, then add salt, pepper, lemon juice and the remaining ½ cup Parmigiano. Pulse to combine, then slowly drizzle in olive oil until a thick pesto forms.

Place a large skillet over high heat and add ¼ cup olive oil. Cook the chicken, 2 breasts at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Remove and keep warm as you cook the other 2 breasts.

Serve each chicken paillard with a lemon wedge, a spoonful of pesto on top, some pulled Armenian string cheese (if using) and a dollop of carrot-cilantro mash.

This recipe appeared in the Spring 2018 issue as part of a larger story on Spring Chicken.