Sauteed Chicken Cutlets With Asparagus, Spring Onions, And Parsley Gremolata

Lately when we're wondering what to have for dinner, if I'm not too tired to get groceries and cook, I'll ask my boyfriend to pick something off a list of spring recipes I want to make. (When I am too tired to cook, we refer to that other list -- all of our usual takeout places.)

On this particular night, we decided to try Bon Appetit's Sautéed Chicken Cutlets with Asparagus, Spring Onions, and Parsley-Tarragon Gremolata. Because I don't care for tarragon, instead of reading that as parsley-hyphen-tarragon, I chose to read it as parsley-minus-tarragon, and I did not add any tarragon to my gremolata. I also had to make a minor substitution: Whole Foods' shallot selection was looking pretty shabby, so I grabbed a cipollini onion instead.

I thought I would love this recipe, but it was just okay. This surprised me because I really, really love asparagus. When I was a kid, I would pick up one stalk at a time and chomp on it from fibrous end to tender tip, slurping butter as I went. I likened the stalks to little trees. I was the only child in my family who liked asparagus, and I'm pretty sure I'm one of few kids who actually wanted to eat things like asparagus, brussels sprouts, turnips, and mushrooms.

I've never really been a picky eater; however, I used to be picky about how I ate. I would eat all of one thing on my plate before moving onto the next. And I would eat from least favorite food to favorite food. So if I had a plate of mashed potatoes, chicken, and corn, I would eat all of the potatoes, then all of the chicken, then all of the corn. My parents used to tell me if would all mix in my stomach anyways. But I would respond that that sort of thing just didn't happen in my stomach. My stomach had compartments.

I can't even imagine eating that way now. When I finished this recipe and had everything on my plate, I cut a piece of chicken and scooped up some of the asparagus and spring onion mixture with it. That's definitely the way to go to get all of the flavors. The chicken supplies that nutty, lightly sauteed flavor, the asparagus and onions are reminiscent of spring, and the gremolata adds bright, citrusy notes.

(I found these great oranges at Whole Foods. You'll see from the pictures that the flesh is more pink and rosy than "orangey." I grabbed one because I needed some zest for the gremolata and the skin looked really nice. I wish I had grabbed some more because they were really quite tasty too. They began with a "c" but I can't remember what they were called!) (Update: They're Cara Cara oranges!)

Sautéed Chicken Cutlets with Asparagus, Spring Onions, and Parsley-Tarragon Gremolata (Bon Appetit, April 2009)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon (scant) saffron threads (I used powder instead because I had it on hand)
12 chicken cutlets (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick; about 2 pounds)
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons (or more) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 pound spring onions or green onions (dark green parts discarded); white parts cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (scant 2 cups)
1 1/2 pounds slender asparagus, tops cut into 3-inch pieces, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream (here I went with crème fraîche)

Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl; cover gremolata and set aside.

Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add saffron and stir until slightly darker, about 30 seconds. Transfer to another small bowl; cool and crumble saffron. DO AHEAD Gremolata and saffron can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Sprinkle chicken lightly with coarse salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. (I recommend turning the heat up slightly if you want your chicken nicely browned.) Working in batches and adding more oil as needed, cook chicken until lightly browned and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Arrange chicken on platter; tent with foil.

Add 1 tablespoon oil and butter to same skillet. Add white and green parts of onions and sauté until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add asparagus.

Sprinkle saffron over vegetables. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper and sauté 1 minute. Add broth, reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender and broth reduces and thickens to glaze, about 5 minutes. Stir in crème fraîche and gremolata. (I reserved some gremolata to sprinkle on top.) Season with salt and pepper.

Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to platter, arranging around chicken. Drizzle sauce over chicken and serve.

The dish was good and "springy" -- very green, light -- but all in all, a little lackluster. If I made it again, I might just do the chicken and gremolata and then steam some asparagus on the side. I think it's just the asparagus mixture I wasn't too fond of, and it took quite some time and effort to prepare too. I really liked the fresh taste of the gremolata, as did my boyfriend. It perks up the plain-old, sauteed chicken cutlets.

Do you like asparagus? What's your favorite way to prepare it?