Last week, I was at the grocery store waiting in line to pay when I overheard an older man say to the young cashier, “Well, I’m not a spring chicken.” I laughed remembering all the times my grandfather used that phrase to explain how he felt like he was getting old. And that made me think: what is a spring chicken? According to the dictionary, a spring chicken is “someone young, young” – which got me thinking about chicken and creating three new spring-focused chicken recipes.
Chicken Milanese, similar to an Austrian schnitzel, is pounded chicken breast lightly coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. I love the crunchy texture that comes when you use Panko breadcrumbs. I garnish the sautéed chicken cutlet with spicy arugula leaves and parmesan shavings. It is both light and comforting.
The second course is French braised chicken with leeks, artichokes and lots of fresh herbs: tarragon, chives, parsley and thyme. Green herbs, leeks and artichokes (I used bottled marinated artichokes) are cooked with the chicken in a light broth. It’s delicious with rice or noodles.
And the third is a quick and easy stir-fry that combines chicken thighs or breasts with crispy bok choy, ginger, and peanuts.
All three are ideal for a quick weeknight dinner or a special weekend gathering.
This is a dish I crave time and time again, especially in the spring. It combines a fabulous crunch from the lightly breaded chicken cutlet, topped with spicy green arugula and hazelnut Paremsan cheese shavings.
Essentially, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are pounded into thin cutlets, then breaded with flour, eggs, and crisp Panko breadcrumbs. The chicken is then shallow fried in olive oil and a touch of butter until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Crispy cutlets are topped with spiced arugula leaves (lightly tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and parmesan shavings.
For 3 to 4 people.
- 2 to 3 large boneless, skinless whole chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons panko or breadcrumbs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter
Arugula and Parmesan:
- About ⅓ cup of arugula leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup parmesan shavings*
- 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
* To grate Parmesan: Use a wide-mouthed peeler to peel fine shavings from a ½ or 1 pound piece of Parmesan. You can also grate the cheese on the wide, thin opening of a cheese grater.
- Prepare the chicken: place a piece of chicken breast on a sheet of waxed paper. Use one hand to press down on the chicken and, using a sharp knife, use your other hand to slice it in half horizontally. You should have two thinner pieces. Repeat with the other chicken breast. Working with one chicken cutlet at a time, place the chicken on a sheet of wax paper or parchment and cover with another sheet of wax paper or parchment. Gently pound the chicken cutlet using a meat mallet or pestle or in the bottom of a heavy skillet; mash chicken to about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken cutlets. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Place eggs in a medium bowl and whisk with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a medium plate and season with salt and pepper. And finally, place the Panko or breadcrumbs on a medium plate.
- Take one chicken cutlet at a time and dredge it in the seasoned flour. Then dip it in the egg mixture and coat it on both sides. Then dip it in the Panko, pressing lightly to make sure the breadcrumbs adhere. Place it on a cookie sheet. Chicken can be made up to this point, covered and refrigerated, several hours in advance.
- Cook the chicken: preheat the oven to 225F degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until the butter begins to sizzle. Add the chicken, one or two cutlets at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pan or the chicken won’t be crispy) and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes on each side (depending on the thinness/thickness of your cutlets) or until until golden brown and cooked through. If you wish, you can insert an instant thermometer; it should read 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the chicken cutlet. Place on a plate and keep warm in the oven. Cook the remaining chicken, using the remaining oil and butter as needed.
- Meanwhile, gently toss the arugula in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Serve the chicken topped with arugula, then parmesan shavings and lemon wedges.
Braised chicken with leeks, artichokes and spring herbs
- About ⅓ cup of flour
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound chicken thighs or breast
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium leeks, white and green sections quartered lengthwise, washed then cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
- 2 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 6 ounces bottled artichoke hearts marinated in oil (artichokes marinated in oil have much more flavor and are more moist), about 1 cup, drained
- Put the flour on a plate and season generously with salt and pepper. Dip the chicken in the seasoned flour on both sides.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan to a plate and set aside.
- In the same skillet, reduce the heat to low and add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring gently, for 5 minutes. Add half of all the herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, burying it in the leek mixture. Increase the heat to high and add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and add the remaining herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme. Spread the artichokes on top. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (a sharp knife inserted into the side should juice yellow, not pink) and the juices have reduced somewhat.
Chicken sautéed with bok choy, ginger and peanuts
The chicken and the marinade:
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken thigh, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Chinese chili paste, hot pepper sauce, or Chili Crisp (a crispy, spicy condiment made with fried chilies and other aromatics)
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or safflower oil
- 1 very large bok choy or 3-4 smaller ones, about 1 pound, cored and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
- 5 green onions, white sections cut into 2-inch pieces and green sections finely chopped
- About ½ cup salted peanuts
- Marinate the chicken: In a medium bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the cornstarch, soy sauce, half the ginger, vinegar, chili paste and sugar; toss to evenly coat chicken. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
- Place a wok or large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat for about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, drain the chicken from the marinade and add it to the hot oil. Do not stir. Cook for 2 minutes. Gently turn the chicken and do not stir it, but let it cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the skillet and place it on a plate.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat for 30 seconds. Add remaining ginger, bok choy and green onions and cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Add the reserved chicken and marinade from the bowl and toss the mixture. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the bok choy is just tender (the greens should be wilted and the white part crispy) and the chicken is cooked through. Add the peanuts and cook for 30 seconds. Serve hot with rice on the side, if desired.