I'm no culinary blowhard—half the time I can't retain the fancy-pants French cooking terms anyway. But I am big fan of paillard. For such an ostentatious term, one that seems like it should describe a ballet move or a European building, paillard is one of the least complex and most approachable food preparations I've learned.
The word refers to a piece of meat pounded thin and cooked on the grill. Since the only tricky part is knowing how to smash a delicate piece of meat into the shape you want without breaking it to smithereens, that is the part I'll focus on here. (Sure, you can just take a meat mallet to the thing and hammer away until you've reached your desired depth. But I hate the hammering part—I imagine my neighbors do, too—and it gets old fast.)
The Pros of Paillard-ing
For one, it gives you some options. You can stuff and roll the meat with your choice of filling, and with more surface area it's easier to marinate (although, pounding can also help tenderize meat, so you often won't need a marinade). It works with pork, turkey, beef, and chicken.
The main benefit is probably that you can thin the meat to a size at which it'll cook quickly without drying out.
But my favorite perk: Thinning the meat gives the appearance of stretching serving quantity. If you cut a pounded out breast in half lengthwise, each person can get a decent looking piece of chicken (it'll resemble a whole breast, just thinner), instead of a thick one cut awkwardly across the middle (hello, hockey puck).
Because, let's be real, a half a breast just won't cut it.
About the author: "Sue Veed" is an editor at a Manhattan-based food magazine and a current culinary student who's trying to learn it all so she can cook it all. She'll take us along for the ride as she makes the journey from home cook to professional. Among things she may never master: looking natural in a chef's hat, and acting demure whenever a pork product hits the table.