Some things you just can’t do without a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Pineapple upside down cake, for one. And crackling or sausage cornbread with a crispy crust. These days, I’m stuck on chicken paillards, quickly seared in a blazing-hot cast iron skillet. A brief marinade (20 minutes) of Meyer lemon juice, oil, smashed garlic, red pepper flakes, and herbes de provence lends the chicken a tangy, upbeat flavor.
Pounding boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs to a uniform thickness is the key to a crisp yet juicy high-heat saute. I put a single chicken piece at a time inside a heavy duty zip top bag, then pound the chicken as thin as I can manage without tearing the flesh. (( use a heavy aluminum meat mallet with a smooth head.) When all of the chicken is flattened, it all goes back inside the bag, along with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice, herbes de provence, red pepper flakes, salt, and two garlic cloves (run through a press).
Heat a 12″ cast iron skillet until a bead of water dropped on its surface sizzles away immediately. Carefully pour two or three teaspoons of olive oil into the hot skillet (amount needed will depend on the skillet’s surface seasoning). Place one or two flattened chicken pieces into the skillet (do not crowd). Cook over medium-high heat, using a splatter guard, until browned, then turn. Continue to cook until the underside is lightly browned. Remove to a heated platter and cook remaining pieces.
Save all your ideas about deglazing the skillet & making a nice sauce for another day. The chicken will be juicy and flavorful on its own, so eat it while it’s hot. Leftover black iron chicken seasoned as described above makes excellent chicken salad, pot pie, or shepherd’s pie.