Chicken and I have a complicated relationship. I’ll go long stretches of time when it just doesn’t interest me, and then—I’ll try a bite of perfectly-prepared chicken and suddenly, I’m feeling it again. And that’s the thing about chicken—it’s all in how you season it. Its reputation as a bland protein source only reflects a boring preparation. If I’m going to cook chicken, I’m going to infuse it with so much flavor in the form of herbs and seasoning that it’s supremely satisfying and excites my taste buds. And my favorite way to make sure chicken stays moist and succulent, whether it’s seared on the grill or baked in the oven? Using yogurt in my marinade.
Why do you marinate chicken in yogurt?
Marinating chicken in yogurt is a tried-and-true technique that’s beloved by chefs, and frequently used in middle eastern cuisine. The yogurt slowly tenderizes meat, leaving it pull-apart tender and full of flavor. A yogurt-based marinate also creates a delicious crust on any type of meat, especially when grilling. I really can’t describe to you how effective and delicious this technique is on chicken—you’ve just got to try it.
I like to use full-fat plain greek yogurt in my marinade. It’s a good consistency for forming that perfect exterior crust, plus it’s usually what I have on hand in my fridge.
A very green marinade for spring
I didn’t set out to make a marinade that was so green, it might as well be a St. Patrick’s-themed recipe… yet here we are. It likely has something to do with the fact that I threw in an entire bunch of fresh parsley into the blender. Yes, it’s a lot of parsley, and yes, it’s delicious. And this herb-y sauce is so versatile. It adds bright color and bold flavor to everything from this yogurt-marinated chicken to slathered over flatbread or tossed with pasta. I’ve even mixed it with an extra splash of oil and vinegar for a delicious salad vinaigrette.
If you’re growing fresh herbs this season, this recipe is the perfect time to harvest your own and blend up in this marinade. It’s equally delicious when made with basil, mint, chives, or (my favorite) a mix of all of them. Either way, once you’ve made it, let the chicken marinate for at least 8 hours (or even better, overnight.) Yogurt is a “gentler” marinade than a typical citrus-based one, so it takes a bit longer for it to reach its full effect.
What is chicken paillard?
I’ll forever associate chicken paillard with one of our favorite restaurants in Paris, Hotel Costes. I’ll preface this by saying that Costes isn’t really a place that you go for the food. The lunch is pretty good, but let’s just say that last time we were there, Lenny Kravitz was sipping champagne at a table nearby. You go to Costes for the people-watching.
Anyway, one of their signature dishes is a chicken paillard that’s pounded as thin as a pancake, lightly grilled, and topped with arugula. We always order it with a bowl of matchstick-thin pommes frites, and it feels so classic and celebratory. Especially with champagne.
Paillard is a french bistro classic, and it’s a term for a piece of chicken (or other meat) that’s been thinly pounded and seasoned before cooking quickly. It’s often served with fresh greens, making it a simple one-dish dinner that sounds fancy, but is perfect even for busy weeknights.
What to serve with grilled yogurt-marinated chicken
I like to finish off this grilled yogurt-marinated chicken with a handful of bright peppery arugula, some big shavings of fresh parmesan, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Try it with a side of grilled asparagus or some oven-baked fries if you’re feeling french bistro vibes. Either way, it’s best eaten outdoors in the sunshine, paired with a very cold glass of rosé.
Scroll on for the recipe for this grilled yogurt-marinated chicken