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~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- and Define a Paillard ~

IMG_0203A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal.  That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard.  It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard.  In certain areas of the United States, paillards are simply referred to as "cutlets".  Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound.  I'm using a few boneless, skinless chicken thighs as an example.   

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098fc7e8970dPaillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word dating back to the 19th century means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded, large-and-flat cut or portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that will cook quickly.  A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness so as to break down the fibers, tenderize it, and, make it cook evenly.  It's best done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it -- a skillet might be fun, but, it won't do an expert job -- it's amateurish.  Taking the time to paillard correctly produces a professional outcome end ensures a pretty presentation, not to mention a perfectly-cooked end product.  Be professional.

The taste and texture of lightly-pounded paillards is an easy extra step that is well worth the effort. In the long run, I often find it to be a time-saver too.  The time it took to pound these six boneless skinless chicken thighs, including the time to get out a cutting board, the plastic wrap and a flat-sided meat mallet is about five minutes. Once done, cooking the paillards is considerably faster and easier, had I not taken the time.  Experience has taught that it is best to paillard the protein du jour while it is cold and easier to control the thickness.  On another note, I like to place "the victim" between two pieces of plastic wrap to paillard.  This enables me to see clearly what is happening with every strike of the meat mallet.  Others prefer wax paper or parchment paper  -- both work.

IMG_0180 IMG_0181 IMG_0184 IMG_0186Example:  Cover a large cutting board with plastic wrap.  Unravel/unroll the chicken thighs and place them, flat and slightly apart, atop the plastic. Cover with a second sheet of plastic.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a thickness of 1/4"-1/2".  Remove and discard top layer of plastic. Proceed with recipe as directed, as, there are several options, each depending on the method being used to cook them (sauté in a skillet, grill indoors or out, bake in the oven, deep-fry, etc):  

At the very least, the tops of the tenderized and delicate paillards typically get seasoned with sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sometimes, the paillards are placed in a marinade to season them (marinades are flavorizers not tenderizers).  Other times, a stuffing is placed on top of them and the paillards get rolled and secured prior to cooking.  Still other times, the paillards go through a classic breading process -- dredged in flour, dipped in eggs, coated in bread crumbs.

To paillard or not to paillard -- always a step worth taking:   

IMG_0203"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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