Turn Chicken Cutlets Into Company-Ready Dish

Chicken breasts can be challenging to cook but with some preparation, the poultry can be transformed into a tasty entree.
Turn Chicken Cutlets Into Company-Ready Dish
Use the best chicken you can afford, such as all natural, antibiotic-free or organic. (JeanMarie Brownson/TNS)

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts provoke anxiety in even the most experienced cook. We all struggle to keep these common, low-fat, protein powerhouses tender and juicy. Plus, we need to surround them with enough flavor to prevent boredom. Slicing the solid textured protein into cutlets and making a simple pan sauce ease the concerns.

Because chicken breasts are by nature irregularly shaped, slicing them before pounding uniformly flat proves an excellent method for better cooking. With just a few minutes of preparation time, and a little bit of muscle, this ubiquitous cut of poultry gets a transformation.

Once we embrace the cutlet method, there are all kinds of ways to enjoy them. Number one: Serve them simply cooked as a main dish or tucked into a sandwich. Slice after cooking and add to salads and pasta, or wrap up in a warm tortilla with salsa and cheese.

Serving the browned cutlets with a creamy pan sauce over vegetables turns the chicken into a company-ready dish. The browned goodness in the bottom of the pan is the basis of the sauce, along with a creamy element such as mascarpone or heavy whipping cream.

Use the best chicken you can afford, such as all-natural, antibiotic-free, or organic. Because whole chicken breasts tend to be huge these days, often weighing in at well more than 1 pound, two halves easily serve three or four people.

To make your own quick-cooking cutlets, use a very sharp slicing knife and slice the breasts horizontally in half. Put each piece between two sheets of plastic and pound with a meat mallet or heavy pan to a uniform 1/2-inch thickness. These cutlets will keep for a day or two covered in the refrigerator.

Most large supermarkets sell pre-sliced chicken cutlets. Look for packages labeled “thin sliced” or “cutlets.” Note that you may still need to pound these to get a uniform thickness.

To make dinner in less than 45 minutes, get organized: Prep the chicken and vegetables, then start the rice cooking. While the rice cooks, sauté the vegetables and then the chicken. Make the pan sauce and serve everything while hot.

Chicken Cutlets With Creamy Chipotle, Mushrooms, and Kale

Makes 4 servings
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets, about 1 1/2 pounds total
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil for high-heat cooking, such as expeller pressed canola oil, safflower oil, or sunflower oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, halved, cut into wedges
  • 12 to 14 small baby bella or cremini mushrooms, about 6 ounces, wiped clean and halved
  • 1 small bunch (about 6 ounces) lacinato kale, ends trimmed off, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons pureed chipotle in adobo or to taste
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, creme fraiche, or heavy (whipping) cream
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Put each chicken breast cutlet between sheets of heavy plastic wrap (I like to use a zippered food storage bag cut open). Pound with the flat side of a meat mallet or heavy skillet until uniformly 1/2-inch thick. Repeat to pound all of the chicken pieces. Season on both sides generously with salt and pepper. Refrigerate covered up to several hours.

Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Slide a baking sheet into the oven to heat.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a very large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and a sprinkling of salt. Cook until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Remove to an ovenproof plate. Set in the warm oven.

Add chopped kale to the skillet. Cook and stir until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and a sprinkling of salt; cook 1 minute more. Add to the plate with the mushrooms.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add chicken in a single, uncrowded layer. (Work in batches if chicken does not fit comfortably.) Cook, without turning, over medium heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Flip chicken and cook until golden on the second side, about 2 minutes. Remove chicken to the heated baking sheet in the oven while you make the sauce.

Increase heat under skillet to high. Add broth and boil, while scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in Worcestershire and chipotle. Heat to boil, then whisk in mascarpone and boil gently until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Return mushroom and kale mixture to pan. Pour any accumulated pan juices from chicken into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Scrape vegetable mixture and all liquid onto a serving platter. Top with chicken cutlets. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Garlicky White Rice With Lime

Makes 4 to 6 servings
  • 2 cups medium-grain white rice
  • 2 2/3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons butter
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt to taste
Put rice, broth, garlic, and butter into a rice cooker. Cover and cook according to manufacturer’s directions.

When rice is cooked, sprinkle with lime juice and salt to taste. Toss to mix. Serve hot.

Note: To make rice in advance, turn cooked rice out onto a baking sheet. Cool completely. Then refrigerate up to three days. Reheat in a covered dish in the microwave.

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JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades. ©2022 JeanMarie Brownson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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