The speed of life never ceases to amaze. Thank goodness I have an arsenal of fast-cooking dinners to keep pace – favorites such as pasta, pork tenderloin, skirt steak, even the occasional omelet.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts rarely make the list – too dry, boring, predictable. That is, until my cutlet epiphany: Sliced or pounded thin, cutlets made from boneless breasts save the day. They cook quickly and evenly so dryness can be avoided. Their mild flavor means they’re ripe for additions such as briny olives, garlic or lemon.
You can get chicken cutlets at the grocery store. Or cut your own: Use a very sharp knife to carefully slice breasts horizontally in half. A medium chicken breast should yield a slice about 1/2- to 1/3-inch thick in the middle. Then place a piece of plastic wrap over the breast and lightly pound it so the whole slice is about 1/4-inch thick.
Advice for the cook: This is fast cooking – have everything ready by the stove. Have someone else set the table. Don’t let anyone interrupt. Then enjoy the process.
With Olives and Artichoke Hearts
Look for olives at the olive bar in supermarkets, then use a small knife to slice the flesh off the pits.
4 pieces (about 1 pound total) chicken breast cutlets (1/4-inch thick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots or 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped ripe or drained canned tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can extra-small artichoke hearts, drained, halved
3 to 4 tablespoons sliced pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Manzanilla
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth (or chicken broth)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
Pat chicken dry. Mix flour, salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge chicken in flour mixture to lightly coat it; shake off excess. Place on a rack set over a pan and let stand up to 1 hour (or refrigerate for several hours, uncovered).
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; saute until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes; cook, 1 minute. Stir in artichokes, olives and garlic; cook, 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; keep warm.
Heat remaining tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add chicken in a single, uncrowded layer. Cook without turning until underside is golden, about 2 minutes. Flip; brown the other side, about 2 minutes.
Arrange chicken on a warm serving platter. Tent with foil. Turn heat up to medium-high. Add wine and boil to reduce by half while scraping up the browned bits. Stir in lemon juice and butter. Season with salt.
Spoon artichoke mixture over chicken. Top with pan sauce.
Per Serving: 324 calories, 16 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 553 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
Yield: 4 servings.