Just when I think I have reached the pinnacle of Tyler's brilliant recipes, I find another gem out there that impresses me all over again. I was lucky enough to stumble across some small bags of fresh local figs at the farmer's market on Saturday, (it pays to get there very early as "finds" like figs sell out fast). We don't get to see local figs here often, (unless you are lucky enough to know someone with a fig tree in their yard), and they are so much fresher and firmer than the ones brought in from the mainland that you can occasionally find in the better grocery stores here. Enjoying some fresh, I wanted to do something wonderful with the rest of them so I looked to Tyler. He has several recipes that use fresh figs, but the one for Chicken Paillard with Fresh Fig Salad and Blue Cheese in Tyler's Ultimate with its variety of interesting ingredients, looked like it would be fun to try.
You can find this recipe in Tyler's Ultimate on pages 138-139
Tyler says: "Pounding chicken breasts into paillards, which means thin slices, is a great way to use chicken breasts in the summertime for salad. It cooks fast and evenly so the meat stays nice and moist. The salty-sweet combination of figs, pancetta, and blue cheese is dynamite. If you can't get your hands on fresh figs, peaches work just as well."
Chicken Paillard with Fresh Fig Salad and Blue Cheese
Tyler's Ultimate, Tyler Florence
3 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb pancetta
extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb blue cheese, broken into hunks
1 bunch of arugula, trimmed
1 small basket seasonal figs, halved
tarragon leaves, for garnish
First whisk together all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and set it aside.
Sandwich the chicken breasts between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound them very thin with the side of a meat cleaver or a rolling pin. Remove the chicken breasts from the plastic and season well on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Unroll the pancetta so it looks like big strips of bacon. Add it to the pan and fry it like a tangle of bacon until the fat is rendered, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Drizzle a 2-count of olive oil into the pan with the pancetta drippings. Add the chicken and pan fry 3 to 4 minutes on each side to brown the breasts and cook them through. Use a spatula to remove the chicken to the paper towels with the pancetta. Add the vinaigrette to the saute pan and heat for a few minutes, stirring, to deglaze the bits of pancetta and chicken from the bottom of the pan; take the pan off the heat.
To serve, arrange the chicken on a platter. Scatter the blue cheese, arugula, figs, and pancetta over. Drizzle the dressing over everything and garnish with the tarragon leaves.
Notes/Results: WOW!!! This is so good and it is such a gorgeous dish too! I was thinking it might possibly be too many things on the plate and that the flavors might compete with each other, but I should not have doubted Tyler. Everything works so well together; the juiciness of the figs, the sweetness of the honey, the assertive, sharpness of the blue cheese, the peppery arugula, the crisp, salty pancetta, and the lightly anise flavor in the tarragon; they all compliment each other and add a new dimension of flavor to the chicken. In fact, although it was moist, juicy, and good, the one ingredient I wouldn't miss if it were taken out would be the chicken--the salad is good enough to stand on it's own. I made the recipe as written, the only difference was that the pancetta my neighborhood grocery store had was in packages and very thinly sliced. I didn't want to make a trip to Whole Foods, but would have enjoyed a thicker cut in the pancetta, for a bit more substance in the texture. The salad goes together quickly and easily, (you can put it together in well under 30 minutes), making it a perfect hot weather dinner. The dish is versatile enough to be a simple casual supper or impress your party guests. This is a winner recipe. If you get some fresh figs, (or as Tyler says peaches will work too), I urge you to try it. In fact, if I can get more figs at the market this week, I'll be making it again. It will go down as one of my very favorite Tyler recipes so far. Delicious!
Head over to the Tyler Florence Fridays blog (here) to see what our other TFF members selected to make this week and what they thought about their recipe choices.