Back in the days when I used to frequent Italian restaurants in London–
(frequent being the operative word, often seen in them in other words: “Meesta Ailees–good to see you again!“–so flattering.)
—chicken paillard with a side order of spagetti in tomato sauce was a regular choice. The combination felt very Italian though I’m still not sure about that*.
It was a specialty of the chef at La Famiglia in Chelsea,
where they also served the quaintly named teenage lamb cutlets–we knew what they meant, but it brought a smile.
It was/is owned by the now legendary Alvaro Maccioni.
Originally from Vinci, northwest of Florence, Alvaro learned his trade at Mario and Franco’s La Terrazza in Soho and before opening La Famiglia ran a nightclub on the King’s Road in the swinging Sixties.
“A lot of Italian restaurants in London have lost touch with their roots. I say to my chefs that if you can cook like your mother then you are a good chef, but if you can cook like your grandmother then you are a great chef.”
Sunday night was his night off; he and his family always watched Poldark–he told me.
I was lunching there one day with Ralph Bates–villainous George Warleggan in the series.
Alvaro approached our table looking grim–offended even.
“Whatsa thees?! Thees isa not right–you are ‘ere widge your enemee?”
A couple of weeks later Angharad Rees (aka Demelza) and I were at the same table.
A beaming Alvaro came over and said loudly, “Thatsa bedder–you are widge you’re a whyfe!”
2 chicken breasts–fat removed
for the brief marinade
2 tablespoons each of olive oil and lemon juice plus the zest of a lemon–whisked together
salt and pepper
for a simple sauce
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
- On a chopping board, lay out a sheet of clingfilm at least twice the width of the breast you are about to beat.
- (Putting a folded dish cloth or drying cloth under the board helps to keep it in place).
- Carefully place a breast in the middle of the sheet.
- Lay a second sheet of the same size over the breast.
- Using a rolling pin, mallet or similarly heavy kitchen utensil–beat the breast to flatten and widen it, taking care not to damage it.
- Repeat the process with the second breast.
- Peal back the clingfilm and place the first breast on a large plate.
- Pour some of the marinade evenly over the chicken.
- Place the second breast on top and pour over the rest of the marinade.
- Move the breasts round some to coat them in the mixture and leave for half an hour.
- Heat a grill pad or large frying pan on top of the stove.
- Season the breasts and place them on the heat.
- Two minutes each side should do it–though it depends on the thinness you’ve achieved, the thinner the quicker…
- Remove to a serving plate and pour over some of the sauce.
A fresh green salad is a good accompaniment–and/or, as above, some beans.
* This is a question for regular commentator Beatrice Papi to answer perhaps–would this be a strange combination to ask for in Florence, Beatrice?