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Spring Chicken Recipes That Will Get Guests Flowing to the Dinner Table

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

Last week, I was standing in line at the grocery store to pay when I heard an older man say to the young cashier, “Well, I’m not a spring chicken.” I laughed as I thought of all the times my grandfather used that expression to explain how he felt he was getting older. And it got me thinking: what is a spring chicken? According to the dictionary, a spring chicken is “one who is young and youthful” — which led me to think about chicken and create three new spring-oriented chicken recipes.

Chicken Milanese, similar to an Austrian sausage schnitzel, is a mashed chicken breast lightly coated with flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. I love the crunchy texture that comes from using Panko breadcrumbs. I top the fried chicken cutlet with spicy arugula leaves and thin shavings of Parmesan cheese. It is both light and comforting.

The second dish is a French-style stewed chicken with leeks, artichokes and lots of fresh herbs: tarragon, chives, parsley and thyme. The green herbs, leeks and artichokes (I used marinated bottled artichokes) are cooked together with the chicken in a light stock. It is 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 weekday dinner or a special weekend gathering.

Chicken Milanese

Chicken Milanese. (Kathy Favor)

This is a dish I crave again and again, especially in the spring. It combines a fantastic crunch from the lightly breaded chicken cutlet, topped with tangy green arugula and shavings of nutty Paremsan cheese.

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

Serves 3 to 4.

ingredients

The chicken:

  • 2 to 3 large whole boneless 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 cheese*
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

*To shave the Parmesan: Use a wide-mouth vegetable peeler to peel thin shavings from a or 1 pound piece of Parmesan cheese. You can also grate the cheese on the large, thin opening of a cheese grater.

ingredients

  1. Prepare the chicken: Place a piece of chicken breast on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Press down on the chicken with one hand and use a sharp knife 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 waxed or parchment paper and cover with another sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Gently beat the chicken cutlet with a meat mallet or pestle or the bottom of a heavy skillet; pound the chicken to about ¼ to ½ inch thickness. Repeat with the remaining chicken cutlets. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the eggs in a medium bowl and beat with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a medium-sized plate and season with salt and pepper. Finally, place the Panko or breadcrumbs on a medium-sized plate.
  3. Take one chicken cutlet at a time and dredge in the seasoned flour. Then dip it into the egg mixture and coat it on both sides. Then dip it into the Panko and press lightly to ensure the breadcrumbs adhere. Place on a baking tray. The chicken can be prepared to this point, covered and refrigerated several hours in advance.
  4. Cook the chicken: Preheat oven to 225F degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil and half the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until the butter begins to sizzle. Add the chicken, one or two cutlets at a time (you don’t want the pan to be too full or the chicken won’t get crispy) 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 with the remaining oil and butter if necessary.
  5. Meanwhile, gently mix the arugula in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  6. Serve the chicken with the arugula, followed by the Parmesan shavings and lemon wedges.

Stewed chicken with leek, artichokes and spring herbs

This dish is light, almost delicate, a bit 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 or alongside rice, couscous, noodles, orzo, or polenta.

Serves 2 to 3.

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

ingredients

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

instructions:

  1. Place the flour on a plate and season generously with salt and pepper. Dip the chicken in the seasoned flour on both sides.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan 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 leek and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add half of all the herbs: the parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Boil for 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and bury it in the leek mixture. Turn the heat to high and add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Set to low, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and add the remaining herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme. Spread the artichokes on top. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (a sharp knife in the side should yield yellow, not pink, juice) and juices have reduced slightly.

Stir-fried chicken with pak choi, ginger and peanuts

This stir-fry cooks quickly, so it’s essential that you have all your ingredients ready. Serve with white or brown rice.

Stir-fried chicken with pak choi, ginger and peanuts.  (Kathy Favor)
Stir-fried chicken with pak choi, ginger and peanuts. (Kathy Favor)

Serves 3 to 4.

ingredients

The chicken and marinade:

  • 1 pound boneless chicken breast or chicken thigh, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 teaspoons cornflour
  • 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 crunchy, spicy seasoning 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 parts cut into 2-inch pieces and green parts finely chopped
  • About ½ cup salted peanuts

instructions:

  1. Marinate the chicken: In a medium bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the cornstarch, soy sauce, half the ginger, vinegar, chili paste and sugar; stir to coat the chicken completely. Marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of an hour.
  2. Place a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and let it get hot – about 30 seconds. Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon and add to the hot oil. Do not stir. Boil for 2 minutes. Carefully turn the chicken and do not stir again, but let it cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ginger, bok choy, and scallions and cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes. Add the reserved chicken and marinade from the bowl and stir to combine. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the bok choy is just tender (greens should have shrunk and whites should be crispy) and chicken is cooked through. Add the peanuts and cook for 30 seconds. Serve piping hot with rice on the side, if you like.

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