Every week, I buy a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The intention: simple, lower-fat meals in quick order. Truth be told: Half the time they end up in the freezer. "Boring!" the kids announce.
A better plan is needed. Since boneless, skinless chicken breasts are by nature irregularly shaped, pounding them uniformly flat proves an excellent method for foolproof cooking. With just a few minutes of preparation time and effort, this ubiquitous cut of poultry transforms from boring to fabulous. Seriously. The chicken remains moist and the seasonings penetrate every bite.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs also take kindly to a little pounding. I usually plan on two small thighs per serving.
Once we adopted the pound-before-cooking method, we discovered all kinds of ways to enjoy lean boneless, skinless chicken, which we dubbed golden chicken. Serve it simply cooked and thinly sliced with a side of brown rice and steamed broccoli.
A zesty fresh relish adds another layer of flavors and textures that everyone will love.
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Slide an ovenproof serving platter into the oven to heat.
Put each chicken breast between 2 sheets of heavy plastic wrap. Use the flat side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet to pound the chicken until uniformly 1/2-inch thick. Repeat to pound all the chicken pieces. Season on both sides with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
For the relish, mix tomatoes, chili, lime juice and cilantro in a small bowl. Gently stir in avocado. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Heat olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; cook until golden, 1 or 2 minutes. Move shallots to one side of pan. Add chicken in a single, uncrowded layer. (Work in batches if chicken does not fit comfortably.) Cook without turning over on medium to medium-high heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken; cook until golden on second side, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove chicken to the heated platter.
Add wine to skillet; heat to a boil. Scrape all the browned bits up off the bottom of the pan. Boil gently until mixture has reduced to about 2 tablespoons liquid, about 2 minutes. Carefully add any accumulated juice from chicken platter to the skillet. Working over low heat, whisk in butter until smooth (do not boil the sauce). Taste for seasoning.
Pour pan sauce over chicken; top with relish. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.
Nutritional information per serving: 315 calories, 15 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 528 g sodium, 5 g fiber
➤➤ Seek out best-quality chicken such as brands clearly marked antibiotic free or organic.
➤➤ Use fresh, never frozen chicken breasts for the best texture.
➤➤ Select small breasts for proper portion control.
➤➤ Trim off any fat or white tendons before pounding.
➤➤ Pound the chicken between two sheets of heavy plastic. I like to use a zippered food bag cut apart at the seams because it holds up to the pounding.
➤➤ Pounded chicken breasts can be refrigerated up to 1 day if tightly wrapped.
JeanMarie Brownson writes the "Dinner at Home" column for the Chicago Tribune, where she served as assistant food editor and test kitchen director for 16 years. She is the culinary director of the Rick Bayless-founded Frontera Foods and Frontera Media Productions, which produces Rick's PBS TV show. She has co-authored three books with Rick, including Mexico: One Plate at a Time, winner of the James Beard Foundation's International Cookbook Award. JeanMarie lives in Chicago.
Publisher: Agate Surrey
Penned: Nov. 3, 2015
What's Inside: A collection of recipes including JeanMarie Brownson's personal favorites from her Chicago Tribune column: "Dinner at Home." These inventive ideas range from simple, everyday dishes (like Sweet and Spicy Roasted Brussels Sprouts) to elegant, holiday fare (Spiced Duck with Ginger Glaze, anyone?). Tried and true, these tasty selections have been approved by JeanMarie's family and friends as well as readers of her column. As a bonus, you'll also find helpful nutritional information, sure-to-impress party menus and tips for outfitting your kitchen based on the types of meals you prepare.
Time Out: 288 pages
Available: $29.95 hard cover at Amazon and other book retailers
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