When it’s hot outside, I love to eat yogurt, slurp gazpacho and sip Arnold Palmers. But no matter what the temperature, I still find myself getting hungry for more substantial food by dinnertime. Chicken cutlets with roasted pepper, olives and tomato satisfies my hunger pangs without being heavy.
Buy boneless and skinless breasts for this recipe. Don’t bother trying to de-bone chicken breasts yourself; it is a time-consuming pain-in-the-you-know-what and, unless you are skilled at it, you’ll lose a lot of the meat in the process. The per pound price difference between bone-in and boneless breasts is usually considerable, but once you take into account the weight of the bone, you’ll find that the meat itself isn’t much more expensive bought boneless.
I use the term cutlet interchangably with boneless breast. Some stores cut breasts into thinner slices and call those pieces cutlets. I prefer the “full” breast for this recipe, but a thinner piece will work if you watch the cooking time to make sure you don’t over cook it.
The cutlets cook quickly and the other ingredients should be added without delay, so mise en place or gathering prepared and measured ingredients is important, as it is in stir-frying. The proportions given are for two, but the recipe is easily increased for more servings; just make sure your pan is large enough to accommodate the cutlets with enough space around it so that it can cook without touching another one.
The only trick to this recipe is pounding the chicken breasts before sautéing (pan frying) to tenderize them. I have a fancy meat mallet that is handy for that purpose, but you can use any heavy and unbreakable knobby implement, like a rolling pin or a pestle from a mortar and pestle. Even a hammer works. Just remember that the meat should not directly touch the rolling pin or other implement; you can assure that by putting the chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap that are larger than the breast. (The cutlets will get larger as they get thinner when you pound them.) Just think of the fun you can have taking out your frustrations on dinner and having it taste better as a result!
Chicken Cutlets with Roasted Pepper, Olives and Tomato
Servings – 2 Cost $7 ($3.50 per serving)
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6-7 ounces each)
- 2 – 3 tablespoons of flour
- 2½ – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- ½ – 1 red pepper, roasted, sliced and cut into 1-2 inch pieces or same amount of bottled, roasted pepper with the salt rinsed off
- ½ yellow onion (approximately ½ cup), cut into crescents
- 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 6-8 black olives, preferably Kalamata or other olives cured in brine, pitted, rinsed and sliced or chopped
- Salt (preferably kosher or sea) and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup of dry white wine or low sodium of chicken broth (substitute water in a pinch)
- ½ teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
- 2 plates – 1 for chicken & the other for vegetables
- Mallet or other implement for pounding breasts
- 2 cutting boards – 1 for chicken & the other for vegetables
- Paper bag (for roasting pepper)
- Plastic wrap
- Pan with cover
- Tongs or fork
- Measuring spoons
- Liquid measuring cup
- Fork and spoon for serving
Roast the pepper. Reserve half for another use.
Slice the pepper, onion, and olives. Set aside.
Put the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap on a cutting board. Pound each breast with gentle but firm rhythmic motions, starting from the center and working out, until it is slightly larger and flatter than when you began. The picture below shows a pounded breast on the left.
Put the flour on the first plate. Lightly flour the breasts, gently dust off the extra and set them aside on the plate.
Heat the pan and then add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the sliced onion. Cook on medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. (The onion crescent tips may get dark – that’s fine.) Remove the onion crescents to the second (clean) plate.
Add the remaining 1½ – 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the cutlets, cooking them on medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes until they are lightly browned. Turn them with a fork or tongs and cook them on the other side for 2 minutes longer.
Return the sautéed, sliced onions to the pan with the chicken. Add the tomato halves, the pepper and olive pieces, the liquid, salt and pepper, and the thyme. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium and cook for about 5 more minutes, until the cutlets are cooked through and the tomatoes are softened.
Serve with rice, barley, or other grain and salad.
Food safety tips for handling raw chicken
Keep the cutting board and all the implements that touch raw chicken separate from those you use on vegetables and on the completed dish. Wash your hands after touching the raw chicken and before handling any other food or items. When serving the chicken and sauce remember to use a different implement from the one that turned the partially cooked cutlets.