Smashed Chicken Breast in a Potato Crust with Tomato and Arugula Salad
This recipe is featured in Mallmann On Fire
Excepted from Mallmann on Fire by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminski and Donna Gelb, Principal photography by Santiago Soto Monllor, Artisan Books, Copyright October 2014
Because chicken breasts are relatively thick, by the time the inside cooks through, the outside can be tough and lifeless. By pounding the breasts, you can cook the chicken rapidly so that it remains tender and juicy inside its “overcoat” of crisp potato slices. Here you need to monitor the heat so that the potatoes brown and crust over slowly. The result is two kinds of crunchiness, from the seared chicken and the potato crust. When I serve a milanesa (breaded veal chop), I like a fresh garden salad of ripe tomatoes, sharp onions, and greens, so I figured, “If it’s good for the calf, it’s good for the chicken.”
Use the removable bottom of a 9-inch tart pan to flip the chicken. The round shape makes it easier to slide it under the potatoes in a circular scooping motion, which helps the potatoes stick together and remain on the chicken. (If you don’t have one, use one or two wide spatulas.)
- Servings Serves 6
- 1 whole boneless chicken breast, skin on, about 1 pound
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 Idaho (baking) potatoes, scrubbed
- About 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- About 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large ripe tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ small red onion, sliced very thin
- 1 small bunch arugula, tough stems removed
1. Lay the chicken skin side down on a work surface and pound it with a mallet to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Trim off any ragged edges. Season generously with salt, black pepper, and the red pepper flakes.
2. Slice the potatoes paper-thin on a mandoline. (Do not rinse or wipe them—you want to retain the starch.) Arrange an overlapping circle of potato slices around the top edge of the chicken, extending about ⅓ inch over the edge. Working toward the center, continue until you have a spiraling layer of potato slices covering the entire surface of the chicken. Press down firmly on the potatoes with the palm of your hand to set them in place.
3. Heat a chapa or a large cast-iron griddle over medium heat. Brush the hot surface generously with olive oil and dot it with half the butter. When the butter melts and begins to foam, slide the bottom of a metal tart pan beneath the chicken to lift it and invert it, potato side down, onto the hot chapa. Tuck any stray potato slices back in, and cook, undisturbed, for about 12 minutes; watch the edges of the potatoes from the side as they soften, curl, and start to release from the hot surface, becoming crisp and brown on the bottom. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent burning, and add more butter or oil to the chapa as it is absorbed by the potatoes.
4. When a bamboo skewer pierces the potatoes easily, they are cooked through. Season the chicken skin with salt and pepper, then carefully slide the metal disk underneath the potatoes in the same direction as the spiral, using a deliberate, circular scooping motion to keep the potatoes in line, and flip the chicken over. Cook for about 8 minutes more, blotting up excess fat with a paper towel as necessary, or adding dots of butter or oil if the griddle seems dry. When the chicken is cooked through but still juicy, slide the disk under it again and transfer it to a platter.
5. Meanwhile, toss the tomato, onion, and arugula together in a bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil. Arrange the salad on top of the chicken, and serve cut into wedges like a pizza.