Summer in France
Of sun and simplicity. C’est beau!
It’s beautiful. Or as the locals would say, C’est beau! That’s the #1 reaction of visitors to France at the height of the growing season. Fresh produce abounds. Meals both simple and sublime surprise and delight. And for one of the nation’s most widely celebrated events, Bastille Day on July 14th, that’s a good time to keep things simple so there’s more time conversing instead of cooking. And why not enjoy the occasion outdoors? Let the festivities begin.
Based on the goal of simplicity, ease of preparation and maximum time outdoors, an easy option for grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts is to turn them into paillards. The standard definition of a paillard is simply a thin piece of meat, often created by pounding. But you can also slice a chicken breast in half horizontally and get two cutlets of equal thickness for fast, even cooking. Brush on some olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings and you’re ready to grill.
Grilling a chicken paillard takes about three minutes a side. It’s that quick. And while the grill is hot, veggies of all kinds can be quickly roasted. But what holds all this together? Is there a sauce that brings out the best of chicken, veggies and even bread? Yes. In French cooking, the answer is a Grand Aïoli, which is essentially a garlic mayonnaise made from egg yolks, olive oil, salt, herbs and lemon juice. You can make it in minutes in a mini chopper or blender, as you’ll see in the recipe for Grilled Chicken Paillards Le Grand Aïoli.
French cuisine has earned a reputation for quality over quantity. Select, well-sourced ingredients skillfully prepared and served in reasonable portion sizes set a good standard for any meal. A great way to use leftover chicken and abundant summer produce is Vegetable & Chicken Tian de Soleil. In southern France, a “tian” refers to an earthenware cooking pot and also a baked dish of chopped veggies topped with cheese. Slice the veggies, bake and serve.
Your feast is dazzling. Not because it’s complicated or required hours of preparation. Save that for another day and season. The season of the sun is here — warm, welcoming and bright with smiles. Take a cue from the French, and let their approach to summer inspire your next get-together. Simplicity brings out the best of summer. Bon appétit!