Labor Day, summer’s last hurrah, is a feast day. And mostly – tell the truth – we tend to overdo it. Ribs, steaks, burgers and hotdogs? Check, check, check and check.
Vegetables and other light fare? Not so much. The standard routine amounts to the summer version of Thanksgiving, except that after the meal, everyone collapses onto the lawn rather than a couch.
There is an alternative dish that’s simultaneously light and refreshing and substantial: chicken paillard. “Paillard” is a French culinary term referring to a piece of meat pounded thin, then grilled or sauteed. In this case, it’s marinated and grilled chicken breasts topped with a peach and arugula salad glorified with a full-fat blue cheese dressing.
Where do you find these skinny cuts of chicken? Chances are you can pick up thin chicken breast cutlets at the supermarket. Or you can buy chicken breasts of average girth, pop them in the freezer for 30 minutes, then cut them horizontally into two thin cutlets. Just be careful not to slip and cut your hand.
And the salad is a cinch: sliced fresh summer peaches and baby arugula (or your favorite greens) tossed with a blue cheese dressing. A little bit of full-fat blue cheese goes a long way. In this recipe, 1 ounce serves four people. Indeed, it’s so rich that it can be combined with low-fat mayonnaise, Greek yogurt and a little bit of water to thin it out. Toasted walnuts (a king among nuts, health-wise) provide the final touch.
GRILLED CHICKEN PAILLARDS WITH PEACH AND ARUGULA SALAD
2 pounds chicken breasts, pounded 1/16 inch thick
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons minced garlic
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
8 cups baby arugula
4 large peaches, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 ounces finely crumbled blue cheese
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
In a large zip-close plastic bag, combine the chicken with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt and several grindings of pepper. Mix, then chill for one hour.
Heat the grill to medium-high. Use an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs to oil the grill grates.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess liquid drip off. Grill the chicken until it is just cooked, about one minute per side. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and let rest for five minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the arugula and the peaches. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and blue cheese. Stir in enough water to achieve the desired consistency (about 1/3 cup), then season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the salad and toss well.
To serve, arrange one of the paillards on each serving plate and top with salad and nuts.