Pounded Chicken with Tomato, Olive, and Avocado Salad
If you plunk a whole roasted chicken on the center of my dining table, I’ll go for the leg or thigh every time. I’m a sucker for dark meat and relish the visceral act of nibbling on a chicken bone. That said, I’ve been embracing the chicken breast of late, not cut from a whole chicken mind you, but boneless and skinless, cooked all by its lonesome. I’ve settled on a technique that makes the most of the meat and have found myriad ways to serve it. In this version — Pounded Chicken with Tomato, Olive, and Avocado Salad — the dish takes a decidedly summery spin. It’s juicy and satisfying, but also light, nourishing, and just right for warm weather dining. Indeed, it’s my current favorite thing to eat on a summer night or for lunch if I’m feeling fancy.
Pounding the Chicken
The first step in nailing this dish is to pound the chicken breasts. You can use a mallet or the side of a rolling pin to do so. This accomplishes a few things:
- It makes the breasts uniform in thickness, so they cook evenly all the way across. You won’t end up with one thin overcooked end while the fat end is juicy.
- It tenderizes the chicken, which is a good thing since it’s quite lean and can easily run tough.
- It results in more surface area to soak up the tasty marinade.
- It means your the chicken cooks quickly, under 10 minutes start to finish.
Use the Grill or the Stove
Although an outdoor grill is my go-to method for this during the summer months, you can do the job quite successfully on a grill pan or even a cast iron skillet. The key is to get your cooking surface very hot and well oiled before laying down the chicken. When pounded, the breasts are quite large, so you may have to cook them one at a time if you’re pan isn’t big enough. Alternatively, you can cook the breasts under your oven broiler.
Tomato, Olive, and Avocado Salad
I love to crown this pounded chicken (also known as chicken paillard) with any number of salads. Sometimes I’ll top it with a generous heap of lightly dressed arugula. I’ve also served it with this Corn and Pickled Onion Salad. That said, the Tomato, Olive, and Avocado combo featured in this recipe is a real winner. I typically use Castelvetrano olives, which are meaty and mildly briny without being overpowering. If you can’t find them or prefer another variety, by my guest. This salad is very flexible that way. In fact, here are a few other swaps and substitutions that might grab your interest.
- Use chopped ripe tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, particularly if you can get your hands on some wonderful local tomatoes or have a garden teaming with them.
- Add another summer vegetables, such as a cup of diced cucumber or lightly steamed corn.
- Add a half to a full cup cooked grains, such as farro or sorghum. Add a bit more of the dressing ingredients so it’s properly seasoned and flavorful.
- If you don’t like olives, leave them out or add something else briny to the mix, such as a few tablespoons of capers.
- Top with several tablespoons of crumbled feta.
Make it a Meal
This is one of those recipes that is light and easy enough for everyday cooking, but is also the sort of dish I’d serve guests. As for side dishes, a loaf of crusty bread and simple green salad would do if you want to keep things simple. I also think this Watermelon Feta Salad, this Quinoa Tabbouleh, or this Farro and Fig Salad would make worthy sides as well. For dessert? Brown Sugar Roasted Apricots with Crème Fraîche would be just right.
More Easy Chicken Breast Recipes:
Pounded Chicken with Tomato, Olive, and Avocado Salad
This is an excellent way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Pound them thin and smother in a cumin and garlic marinade. They’ll be suitably seasoned and ready for the grill by the time you assemble the salad that gets spooned over the finished chicken. Light, satisfying, and undeniably tasty, it’s great for a weeknight supper or a simple summer dinner party.
For the chicken and marinade
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane or minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 boneless, skinlessless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lbs)
For the salad
- 1 1/3 heaping cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 level cup castelvetrano or other favorite olives, pitted and torn in half
- 1 small ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
- 1/4 roughly chopped cup fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
In a large, shallow bowl, whisk together the marinade for the chicken: lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, cumin and salt. Set aside while you pound the chicken.
Lay a chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap that are about the size of a sheet of binder paper. Use a mallet or the side of a rolling pin to pound the chicken so it is about 1/3-inch thick across the surface of the breast. Add to the marinade and repeat with the second breast. Leave the breasts to marinate while you assemble the salad.
In a medium bowl, stir together the cherry tomatoes, avocado, olives, scallions, basil, olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Taste and add more salt if needed.
The chicken breasts can be cooked on an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan or large cast iron skillet. Get your grill or pan piping hot, brush it with olive oil, and lay down the pounded chicken. Cook until you have distinct grill marks/browning and the chicken pulls away easily from the grill or pan, about 3 to 4 minutes. Cook the second side until the chicken is just cooked, another 3 to 4 minutes (you can make a little cut in the center to check and know that it will continue to cook once off the grill). Transfer to a platter or large plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
Stir the salad and spoon over the chicken. Drizzle any remaining juices over the top. Serve.