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Lemon Chicken with Fresh Spinach

They say you shouldn’t grocery shop when you are hungry. I shouldn’t write posts when I am hungry because looking at these chicken photos is killing me right now. This chicken is fantastic and it is extremely easy. I love chicken which is flattened within a millimeter of looking like pink Saran Wrap because it cooks up in about 2 minutes per side…which means you can actually eat in about 20 minutes if the stars are aligned and someone helps set the table and fill glasses. And because all of the beating has a tenderizing effect on the chicken, and the cooking time is so fast, you don’t even have to use the world’s finest birds to end up with a great meal. For the record, I got this poultry at CostCo in a big giant vacuum packed sheet. I threw some in the fridge and some in the freezer. This was from the freezer batch and I thought it was quite good.

This is from a recipe that I found in Martha Stewart magazine. Big surprise, I know. She calls this preparation of chicken breasts, “paillards” but is kind enough to allow that we regular folk may also just refer to paillards as “flattened meat”. And since saying paillard makes me feel a little stupid, I’m going to go with flattened meat. To flatten your chicken in this manner you need to take a regular boneless skinless chicken breast and cut it in half in the manner of a hamburger bun. Find a nice fat edge and using a very sharp knife, merely begin a lateral slice. Once you have started you can kind of hold on to the top flap as you cut through and it helps separate and lift as you cut which also minimizes the likelihood of you slicing through your hand with a chicken-y knife which just grosses me out to think about.

Then get a re-sealable bag. One at a time, put a piece of chicken in and whack it with a meat mallet (or a rolling pin…or a big rock…whatever). Just make sure your mallet is flat as you strike the chicken so you flatten and spread the meat, not bang holes though it. You are being not gentle at all and careful all at the same time, yes?

Once you have your chicken ready…this moves very fast.

4 chicken breast (halved again and flattened)
Salt and Pepper
One shallot
2 lemons
¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
Unsalted butter
Olive Oil
A pinch of parsley (ooh, or tarragon would be nice)
Baby Spinach, about 2 cups per serving

First, do your prep work so that you have everything ready to go. Flatten the chicken. Season it with salt and pepper. Finely chop the shallot. And  peel and segment the lemons. For the lemons, use one of those flexible cutting mats if you have one so you don’t lose all the juice as you segment. Cut the end off of the lemon so it will stand up. Cut the skin off the lemon using a sharp paring knife and then cut out segments of lemon between the membranes. This is a pain and very few end up whole at the end of the process so just get after it, cut as many decent chunks out as you can…get out the seeds and save the juice by pouring it from the mat to the bowl if you are able. Then, put the remains of the lemons in a squeezer and squeeze out the remaining juice. Put the segments and juice in a small bowl.

In a hot skillet, melt about 1 tablespoon of butter and mix it with one tablespoon of olive oil. You will add butter and olive oil as you cook, as needed, so don’t worry too much about the precision of the amounts. Once the butter foams, add two of the pieces of chicken. If you are using a nonstick skillet, you will notice that at first the chicken is STUCK. That is normal. Don’t try to move it or pry it up or you will end up tearing up your chicken. If your skillet is nice and hot, when the chicken has developed a nice sear it will become un-stuck and you will be able to flip it with minimal prying. This will take about 2 minutes per side. As the chicken is cooked, remove it to a plate tented with foil and move on to the next two pieces, adding butter and olive oil as necessary.

When all of the chicken is cooked, add the shallots to the now empty skillet. All of the wonderful brown fond on the bottom of the skillet will begin to release as you sauté. After about one minute, add the lemons, lemon juice, the broth, and any juices which have accumulated on the chicken plate. Bubbling will ensue. You want to let it bubble and reduce by about half. Then, add about 1 tablespoon of cold unsalted butter to the skillet, which gives the sauce a wonderful and velvety finish. Season with a little chopped parsley (dried is fine). Add the chicken back to the skillet and turn the pieces over a few times in the sauce.

Place a nice pile of spinach on each serving plate. Then place a portion of chicken on top of the spinach. Then evenly distribute the pan sauce over the chicken servings. Head to the table. The spinach will wilt just slightly by the time you start eating. It is really really good stuff.

The amount of yammering I’ve done here might lead you to believe this is complicated or takes a long time. But it isn’t and it doesn’t. It is quick and it is fresh. But you do want to be ready to head for the table by the time you get the food on the plates, so about the time you have the chicken out of the skillet and are about to start the sauce…it is time to get some back up on glass filling and table setting. The spinach is really all you need for a vegetable with this. But I would highly recommend making some crusty, hot, homemade bread to go with it. You will not leave a drop of this sauce on the plate.

This will serve 4 adults, with each person getting 2 finished pieces of chicken…which is really one piece of chicken…which is really a half of a breast…if anyone is doing the silly math. Did you know that? One breast of a chicken is really two pieces of meat…on chickens a breast is considered a unit whereas (generally) on people they are each appreciated on their own as a distinct and wonderful singular breast. Poor chickens. So when you ask your butcher for a chicken breast and he gives you two pieces of meat…this is why.

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