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Spring chicken recipes that will make guests flock to the dinner table05:46
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Braised chicken with leeks, artichokes, and spring herbs. (Kathy Gunst)
Braised chicken with leeks, artichokes, and spring herbs. (Kathy Gunst)

Last week, I was at the grocery store waiting in line to pay when I heard an older man tell the young cashier, “Well I’m no spring chicken.” I laughed remembering all the times my grandfather used that expression to explain that he felt he was aging. And it got me thinking: What is a spring chicken? According to the dictionary, a spring chicken is “someone young, youthful" — which led me to think about chicken and create three new spring-focused chicken recipes.

Chicken Milanese, similar to an Austrian wiener schnitzel, is a pounded chicken breast lightly coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. I love the crunchy texture that comes when you use Panko breadcrumbs. I top the sauteed chicken cutlet with spicy leaves of arugula and thin shavings of Parmesan cheese. It is both light and comforting.

The second dish is a French-style braised chicken with leeks, artichokes and lots of fresh herbs: tarragon, chives, parsley and thyme. The green herbs, leeks, and artichokes (I used bottled marinated artichokes) are cooked with the chicken in a light broth. It’s delicious with rice or noodles.

And the third is a quick, easy stir fry that combines chicken thighs or breasts with crunchy bok choy, ginger, and peanuts.

All three are ideal for a quick weeknight dinner or a special weekend gathering.

Chicken Milanese

Chicken Milanese. (Kathy Gunst)
Chicken Milanese. (Kathy Gunst)

This is a dish I find myself craving time and time again, particularly in the spring. It combines a fabulous crunch from the lightly breaded chicken cutlet, topped with spicy, green arugula and shavings of nutty Paremsan cheese.

Essentially, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are pounded into thin cutlets and then breaded with flour, egg and crispy Panko breadcrumbs. The chicken is then shallow fried in olive oil and a touch of butter until crispy on the outside and tender inside. The crispy cutlets are topped with spicy arugula leaves (lightly tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Serves 3 to 4.

Ingredients

The chicken:

  • 2 to 3 large whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons Panko or breadcrumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter

The arugula and parmesan:

  • About ⅓ cup arugula leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup Parmesan shavings*
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

*To shave the Parmesan: Use a wide-mouthed peeler to peel thin shavings off a ½ or 1 pound chunk of Parmesan cheese. You could also grate the cheese on the large, thin opening on a cheese grater.

Ingredients

  1. Prepare the chicken: Place one piece of the chicken breast on a sheet of wax paper. Use one hand to press down on the chicken and, using a sharp knife, use your other hand to cut it in half horizontally. You should have two thinner pieces. Repeat with the other chicken breast. Working with one chicken cutlet at a time, place the chicken on a sheet of wax or parchment paper and top with another sheet of wax or parchment paper. Gently pound the chicken cutlet using a meat mallet or pounder or the bottom of a heavy skillet; pound the chicken to about ¼ to ½ inch thickness. Repeat with the remaining chicken cutlets. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a medium plate and season with salt and pepper. And finally, place the Panko or breadcrumbs on a medium plate.
  3. Take one chicken cutlet at a time and dredge in the seasoned flour. Then dip it into the egg mixture and coat on both sides. Then dip it into the Panko, pressing lightly to make sure the breadcrumbs adhere. Place on a cookie sheet. The chicken can be prepared up to this point, covered and refrigerated, for several hours ahead of time.
  4. Cook the chicken: preheat the oven to 225F degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and half the butter in a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat until the butter begins to sizzle. Add the chicken, one or two cutlets at a time (you don’t want to crowd the skillet or the chicken won’t crisp up) and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes per side (depending on how thin/thick your cutlets are) or until golden brown and cooked through. If you want you can insert an instant thermometer; it should read 165F degrees in the thickest part of the chicken cutlet. Place on a plate and keep warm in the oven. Cook the remaining chicken using the remaining oil and butter as needed.
  5. Meanwhile gently toss the arugula in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  6. Serve the chicken topped with the arugula and then the Parmesan shavings and lemon wedges.

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Braised chicken with leeks, artichokes, and spring herbs

This dish is light, almost delicate–kind of like spring itself. Chicken thighs or breasts are browned and then braised with leeks, artichokes, garlic, and lots of fresh herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme. Serve on top of, or alongside, rice, couscous, noodles, orzo, or polenta.

Serves 2 to 3.

Braised chicken with leeks, artichokes, and spring herbs. (Kathy Gunst)
Braised chicken with leeks, artichokes, and spring herbs. (Kathy Gunst)

Ingredients

  • About ⅓ cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound chicken thighs or breast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium leeks, white and green sections cut lengthwise into quarters, washed and then cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup minced fresh chives
  • 2 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 6 ounces bottled artichoke hearts marinated in oil (the marinated artichokes in oil have far more flavor and are moister), about 1 cup, drained

Instructions

  1. Place the flour on a plate and season liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour on both sides.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet to a plate and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet reduce the heat to low and add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, gently stirring for 5 minutes. Add half of all the herbs: the parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken back to the skillet, burying it into the leek mixture. Raise the heat to high and add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover the skillet, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and add the remaining herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme. Scatter the artichokes on top. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (a sharp knife inserted in the side should yield yellow, not pink, juice) and the juices are somewhat reduced.

Stir-fried chicken with bok choy, ginger and peanuts

This stir fry cooks up fast so it’s essential that you have all your ingredients ready to go. Serve with white or brown rice.

Stir-fried chicken with bok choy, ginger and peanuts. (Kathy Gunst)
Stir-fried chicken with bok choy, ginger and peanuts. (Kathy Gunst)

Serves 3 to 4.

Ingredients 

The chicken and the marinade:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken thigh, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese chili paste, hot pepper sauce or Chili Crisp (a crispy, spicy condiment made with fried chili peppers and other aromatics)
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar

The vegetables:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or safflower oil
  • 1 very large bok choy or 3 to 4 smaller ones, about 1 pound, cored and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 5 scallions, white sections cut into 2 inch pieces and green sections finely chopped
  • About ½ cup salted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken: in a medium bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the cornstarch, soy sauce, half the ginger, vinegar, chili paste and sugar; stir to coat the chicken completely. Marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
  2. Place a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and let it get hot—about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, drain the chicken from the marinade and add to the hot oil. Do not stir. Cook for 2 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken over and again do not stir, but let it cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and let heat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ginger, bok choy and scallions and cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Add the reserved chicken and the marinade from the bowl and stir the mixture together. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the bok choy is just tender (the greens should be wilted and the white section crispy) and the chicken is cooked through. Add the peanuts and cook for 30 seconds. Serve piping hot with rice on the side, if you like.

More favorite chicken recipes:

This segment aired on April 22, 2022.

Related:

Kathy Gunst Twitter Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.

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