Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chicken paillards with pesto cream and balsamic vinegar (retro 1988)

If you are the cook on Christmas Eve you might find reason, the day being somewhat harried, to at the last put together a very quick dish of chicken breasts, pounded flat so that they will heat to done-ness in seconds, and then promptly sauced with a pan-dripping ménage of pesto, balsamic vinegar, and cream. We find the recipe in Abby Mandel's More Taste Than Time (1988). A "paillard" is a chicken breast, cut in half, tendon removed, and flattened by pounding with a rolling pin -- place the breast between two sheets of plastic wrap first.

Lacking a nice photo of Ms. Mandel's end result, here instead are some "recipe dice" from the Bas Bleu catalog, with the appropriate ingredients front and center. A charming concept these dice, if a bit loaded, shall we say? on vegetables and greens.

Abby Mandel's Chicken paillards with pesto cream and balsamic vinegar

1 whole boned and split chicken breast, tendon removed
3 Tablespoons pesto sauce, commercially prepared or see below*
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup whipping cream

Place the chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a rolling pin until the paillard is very thin, about 1/8 inch thickness.

Set a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Brush one side of each breast with a little pesto sauce (about 2 teaspoons each). When the pan is warm but not hot, lay in the chicken, pesto side down. (Pesto has enough olive oil in it to grease the pan.) Brush the top of each breast with remaining pesto.

Cook only about a minute, long enough to cook the underside through. Turn the paillard and finish cooking the other side, about one more minute. Remove to a warm platter and cover with tin foil.

Raise the heat under the pan to medium high and add the balsamic vinegar, stirring up any brown bits. Add the cream and whatever juices have accumulated on the platter from the waiting chicken. Stir and cook the sauce another two or three minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and spoon over the chicken. Serve immediately.

*Pesto sauce, also from More Taste Than Time

2 large garlic cloves, peeled
3 ounces Parmesan cheese
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1 cup "light tasting" olive oil, or "equal parts olive and safflower oil" (Some commercial "olive" oils are already this mixture; look for "safflower" in very light colored type on the label, especially if you don't want it.)

Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor or blender, and whirl until the mix is ground. With the blender running, drizzle in the oil. Pesto will keep, refrigerated, for up to a month.

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