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Chicken Goat Cheese "Piccata"
This dish may look complicated because of the number of steps, but most of the elements can be prepared ahead of time. If you are in a time pinch, the chicken alone is terrific and can be made fairly quickly. The goat cheese contributes a silken element, and its bright white color makes the dish look springy and refreshing. Why call it "piccata?" Chalk it up to my imagination and the presence of the classic piccata duo of capers and lemon.
For the chicken
4 boneless chicken thighs with skin, about 1 3/4 pounds (Note: If you cannot find boneless chicken thighs, ask your butcher to remove the bones for you. Alternatively, use boneless, skin-on chicken breasts)
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (or use chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 tablespoon dried)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
8 ounces Bucheron or use other soft-ripened goat cheese such as goat brie or Humboldt cut into 16 slices (or use fresh goat cheese)
For the marinade/dressing
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons drained bottled capers
For the salad
4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
1 small red onion (about 6 ounces), cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 pound spinach leaves, washed and dried well
2 medium tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), coarsely chopped then lightly salted
To prepare the chicken: Place the chicken, skin side up, in a glass pan just large enough to hold it. In a small bowl, mix together the herbes de Provence, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and fresh ground pepper, (and fresh goat cheese, if using). Carefully slip the herb mixture under the skin of each thigh, distributing it as evenly as possible. If using slices of cheese, place 2 slices side by side under the skin. If the skin tears, secure it with 1 or 2 toothpicks.
To make the marinade: In the same bowl you used to mix the herbs, mix together 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Pour over the chicken. Salt and pepper both sides of the thighs. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours, refrigerated.
When ready to cook, place an oven rack 6 inches below the heating element and preheat the broiler.
To make the dressing: Using the same bowl you used to make the marinade, mix together remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Add the capers and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside. (Dressing can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated).
To prepare the salad: Cook the bacon until crisp in a medium-size skillet over medium heat, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. To the same pan, add the onion slices and cook over medium heat until the onions are limp, about 5 minutes. Add a touch of salt, and set aside.
To cook the chicken: Place the chicken in a shallow broiler-proof pan, skin side down. Broil the chicken until it is slightly dark around the edges, tan in the center, and feels firm yet slightly springy to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook until the skin is very crisp and the chicken feels firm but still gives slightly when touched, about 8 minutes. (Note: If using chicken breasts, cook 1 minute less on each side so they will not dry out).
To assemble: Place the spinach, bacon, and onions in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing. Put one piece of chicken on each of 4 dinner plates. Distribute the spinach salad on top of each thigh, and sprinkle with chopped tomato. Place 2 slices of cheese on top of the tomatoes, give a couple of twists of fresh ground pepper, and serve.