What is paillard? It’s the French culinary term that refers to a thin piece of meat made flat by pounding. Any type of deboned meat can become a paillard, but it often refers to veal or chicken. Once you master this straightforward technique, you’ll have delicious weeknight dinners on the table in no time flat. Read on to learn the method.
The Benefits of Making a Paillard
The purpose of making a paillard (pronounced pie-yar) is three-fold.
- To tenderize the meat. A great benefit to making paillards is tender flesh. When a cut of meat is pounded, the muscle fibers and sinewy connective tissues are broken down resulting in fork-tender meat.
- To create a thin cut that cooks quickly and evenly. Quick-cooking paillards are most often sautéed, grilled, broiled or breaded then pan-fried. Thin meats should be cooked fast and hot to sear the outside while keeping the interior juicy.
- To get generous yields out of smaller portions. A single chicken breast can be doubled when butterflied, pounded and cooked.
What Meat to Use for Paillard
The type and cut of meat used for making paillards varies from country to country but here are some loose guidelines: chicken and turkey paillards are generally made from breast meat; veal paillards are sliced from the leg, shoulder or made from end-cut “Milanese” chops; beef, buffalo, venison and lamb paillards can be sliced from the tenderloin, round or sirloin; and pork paillards are usually cut from the loin or leg. The cut of meat will determine how you slice it.
If you need to pre-thin cuts such as poultry breasts, slice horizontally. Thicker parts such as loins, legs or roasts should be cut vertically, across the grain. Briefly popping the meat into the freezer will ease slicing.
How to Pound Paillard
You don’t need much in the way of special equipment when making paillards – a flat-sided meat mallet and plastic wrap or parchment paper. If you don’t have a mallet you can use a heavy, flat-bottomed skillet or baker’s rolling pin to pound with, although you’ll have less control and it may be harder to gauge thickness. All in all, it’s pretty easy:
Place a larger piece of plastic wrap or parchment on a steady cutting board or another work surface. Place the slice of meat on top then another sheet of material, sandwiching the meat.
Using the flat side of a meat mallet (or pan or rolling pin), begin to pound the meat from the outside inward over the entire surface. Be mindful of the strength used when pounding and adjust accordingly. Make sure you’re breaking down tough cuts while not pounding delicate cuts so hard that holes appear. Your finished paillard should be never less than 1/8 inch thick.
Once the paillard has reached the desired thickness, remove the plastic or parchment, season and/or bread if you wish, and cook.
Note: Take care! Thin pieces of meat cook very quickly and will be overdone if not timed carefully, defeating the point of pounding. Cook paillards until just done as they’ll continue to cook even when off the heat.
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