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.

Lemon Chicken with Fresh Spinach
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Easy, fast dinner.
  • 4 chicken breast halves, each cut in half again and flattened
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 lemons
  • ¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • unsalted butter
  • olive oil
  • pinch of parsley
  • baby spinach, about 2 cups per serving
  1. Place the chicken in a large re-sealable bag without sealing the bag. Flatten the chicken with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Season it with salt and pepper.
  2. Finely chop the shallot. Peel and segment the lemons. To do this, 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. Remove the seeds and save the juice by pouring it from the cutting mat to the bowl if you are able. Put the remains of the lemons in a squeezer and squeeze out the remaining juice into a small bowl. Place the segments in the same small bowl.
  3. In a hot skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and mix it with one tablespoon of olive oil. Add butter and olive oil as you cook, as needed. Once the butter foams, add two of the pieces of chicken. Don’t worry if the chicken sticks to the pan a bit. 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.
  4. When all of the chicken is cooked, add the shallots to the 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. Scrape up any remaining bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the liquid 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. Remove from the heat.
  5. Place a nice pile of spinach on each serving plate. Then place a portion of chicken on top of the spinach. Evenly distribute the pan sauce over the chicken servings. The spinach will wilt just slightly by the time you start eating.

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.

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.


  1. Lola Pitzer says

    You are killing me with all of these good quick recipes!! I stay in the kitchen all of the time. Of course, Phil is loving it!

  2. billi jo says

    I made this for dinner last night and it was so delicious!! Perfect light summer meal. Loved it!!

  3. says

    My friends always think I’m crazy when I mention flattening (a.k.a. taking out aggression on) meat. But it works!

    Love the blog :)

  4. Courtney says

    First of all, I ended up at the store without my grocery list and was so happy to be able to pull up your site on my phone and look up the ingredients I needed. Secondly, this is yet another delicious recipe. Caroline loved helping me with the meat mallot. I will definately be making this dish again. Thanks!

  5. says

    I open your email post FIRST before all others….it like having the cooking channel on my laptop….thank you for making cooking fun and love the photos

  6. Silvia says

    Not a drop of sauce left on the plate!! Still thinking of the flavor the morning after. A definite dinner favorite now :)


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