We created this recipe based on a dish I had years ago at a local restaurant. “Paillard” refers to the technique of pounding the chicken flat before cooking it so that it cooks faster and more evenly. One of the reasons we love this recipe is that it incorporates the main course and side into a single dish, making it easy to prepare during a busy week. The recipe is also a good one because it uses fresh spinach, which is a “superfood.” And we balance out the healthy with a little bit of bacon, which of course makes everything better.
The easiest type of spinach to use for this dish is the pre-washed and pre-packaged baby spinach from the grocery store. You could also use bunch spinach, but you’ll need to wash it and probably will need to tear the leaves into smaller pieces. With either type of spinach, I like to de-stem the leaves — call it OCD (as Dan does), I just prefer it that way.
De-stem (optional) the spinach and tear into bite-sized pieces.
Slice the tomatoes. We usually use grape tomatoes for this recipe because they are easy to slice in half and they have less seeds than bigger tomatoes.
Crumble up 4-5 slices of pre-cooked bacon. We like to cook this recipe during the week when we have leftover bacon from weekend breakfast.
Prepare the chicken by cutting off any visible fat and the little white tendon pieces on the end of each chicken tender. You could also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but we’ve found that the tenders are easier to pound flat since they are smaller.
Lay the tenders out on a cutting board, then cover them with plastic wrap. Pound the tenders flat using a meat tenderizer. The side of a wine bottle or some other type of bottle would work as well. After you pound the chicken tenders, season both sides of each tender with salt and pepper.
Set up your ingredients for lightly breading the chicken tenders: flour, egg and panko. You could use regular breadcrumbs instead of panko, but we like panko because it’s a bit lighter and results in a crispier coating.
Lightly dredge each tender in the flour first, shaking off any excess flour…
…then coat the tenders all over with panko.
Heat some vegetable or olive oil over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet and cook the tenders until they are done and browned on both sides, about 7-8 minutes total. Make sure that your oil is very hot (but not smoking) before you add the chicken tenders.
Turn the tenders halfway through the cooking process.
While the tenders cook, mix together the dressing for the spinach, starting with lemon juice.
Then add olive oil. Because the olive oil is a key ingredient of the dressing, we use our “really good” olive oil, as opposed to our everyday good olive oil that we use for sauteing. Our favorite “really good” olive oil is the Laudemio brand.
Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the olive oil and lemon juice, then whisk the ingredients together. Be sure to taste the dressing and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Drizzle the dressing over the spinach and tomatoes and toss.
Shave some parmesan for garnish.
Plate the meal with the chicken on the bottom, topped with the dressed spinach and tomatoes, crumbled bacon and shaved parmesan.
A perfect bite including each ingredient — all of which go so well together!
Chicken Paillard with Spinach
- 1 package boneless, skinless chicken tenders
- 1-2 eggs
- ½ cup flour (approximately)
- 1 cup panko or breadcrumbs (approximately)
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 2-3 cups fresh spinach (de-stemmed if you want)
- 4-5 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
- ¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of salt and pepper
Prepare the chicken by trimming any visible fat. Lay the tenders on a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Pound out each tender with a meat tenderizer until about ¼ inch thin. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet. Dredge each chicken tender in flour, egg and panko. Cook the tenders (in batches if necessary) until done and browned on each side, about 7-8 minutes total. Drain the tenders on a paper towel on a plate.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the lemon juice mixture over the spinach and tomatoes and toss.
Serve the chicken tenders on a plate, top the chicken with the dressed spinach and tomatoes, then garnish with crumbled bacon and shaved parmesan.