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I love it when I can change a favorite recipe to make it lighter, but keep the flavor my family loves. One of our favorite easy dinner recipes is chicken cutlets topped with cheddar cheese, avocado and bacon. It’s easy and tasty, but I thought by using the same techniques and swapping out some of the ingredients, I could create a recipe that would be just as tasty, but better for you. This recipe for California chicken is a makeover of my bacon avocado chicken recipe. It’s inspired by a recent trip I took to northern California. Instead of olive oil, this recipe Mazola® Corn Oil. A clinical study showed Mazola Corn Oil reduces cholesterol two times more than extra virgin olive oil. To learn more about this claim, see MAZOLA.com.
Variations of this chicken recipe can be found in restaurants throughout northern California, especially around Monterey. Instead of the cheddar cheese and bacon in my old favorite recipe, this chicken is topped with Monterey Jack cheese (lower in fat and sodium) and juicy, vitamin-packed tomatoes. Fresh lemon juice gives California chicken a pop of bright citrus flavor.
This California Chicken recipe starts with chicken cutlets. Chicken cutlets are chicken breast halves sliced horizontally. They are thin, so they cook fast and don’t dry out. When making chicken cutlets, I look for chicken breast halves that are large, six to eight ounces each. It’s easiest to look for trimmed, “recipe ready” chicken breast halves. If your chicken breast halves are not trimmed, you can do this yourself, by cutting away the fat and connective tissue. If the tenderloin is attached, you can cut that away also, and save it for another use. Cut the trimmed chicken breast halves horizontally to create thin cutlets:
Next, cover the cutlets with plastic wrap, and pound to an even thickness of about 1/4 to 1/3 inch. Pound lightly using a meat mallet or rolling pin, flattening out any thick spots. You can feel with your hands to find out if the cutlets are evenly thin.
Once you have cut and flattened your chicken cutlets, place them on a cutting board, and season lightly with garlic salt and pepper. Keep the seasoning light at this point, because you will be adding more later to create layers of flavor. Let the chicken cutlets rest while you slice the topping ingredients: Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, fresh tomato, and lemon wedges. You can either slice or dice the avocados and tomatoes, whichever you prefer.
After slicing the toppings, mix a little all-purpose flour with garlic salt and pepper in a shallow dish. I use a pie plate. Dredge each chicken cutlet in flour, shaking away the excess. Flouring the chicken breast cutlets is optional, but it helps them brown nicely. If you don’t want to use flour, leave it out. You can also use almond flour for a gluten free option.
Next, preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. I use an enameled cast iron skillet, but you can use any skillet that has a heavy bottom. A lid is also helpful. Pour about 2 tablespoons of Corn Oil in the bottom of the skillet, and tilt so the pan is evenly coated. Mazola Corn Oil is perfect for this recipe, because it has a neutral taste that lets the flavor of the other ingredients stand out. It also has a high smoke point of 450º F, higher than extra virgin olive oil. This lets you cook your chicken cutlets quickly over high heat to keep them from drying out.
Brown the chicken cutlets for about three minutes on each side, until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the heat, and squeeze three of the fresh lemon wedges over the chicken. Quickly arrange the toppings – first the cheese, then the avocado, then the tomato. Sprinkle the toppings lightly with garlic salt and fresh pepper. Place the lid over the skillet, so the remaining heat will melt the cheese. Serve your California chicken with additional fresh lemon wedges.
I’m a huge fan of this light, better-for-you, California chicken recipe. Melty cheese, luscious avocado, and bright, fresh tomato are a perfect complement for juicy, perfectly cooked chicken breast. Give it a try, and it might become your new family favorite.
30-Minute California Chicken
- 3 large chicken breast halves, 6 to 8 ounces each
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Mazola Corn Oil
- 1 lemon
- 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 large avocado
- 1 large ripe tomato
- Trim fat and connective tissue from the chicken breast halves. Slice each half horizontally to form two cutlets.
- Pound the cutlets between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper until they are uniformly thin, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch.
- Season the cutlets with 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and set aside.
- Mix 1/2 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow dish or pie plate. Set aside.
- Cut the lemon into wedges. Thinly slice the cheese. Dice or thinly slice the tomato. Dice or thinly slice the avocado. Set aside.
- Preheat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, dredge each chicken cutlet in the seasoned flour. Make sure each piece of chicken is well coated, and shake away the excess.
- Pour the Corn Oil in the preheated skillet. Add the seasoned, floured chicken breast cutlets.
- Brown the chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Remove skillet from heat. Squeeze the juice from 3 lemon wedges over the 6 pieces of chicken.
- Working quickly, arrange the toppings: first cheese, then avocado, then tomato. Season the toppings lightly with garlic salt and pepper. Place a lid on the skillet, and wait a few minutes for the cheese to melt.
- Serve California Chicken with additional lemon wedges.