Monday, March 22, 2010

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts in Lemon and Chive Pan Sauce

 Boneless skinless chicken breasts make frequent appearances on our dinner table, mostly because they're so versatile.They go in salads, pasta or rice dishes; they form a canvas for an array of delicious sauces.

So when Cook's Illustrated claimed they had discovered a better way to cook these babies, I was all ears. Essentially, they cooked the chicken breasts, covered, on low heat in the oven, then finished them on the stove top. And man. They were right. These were the best chicken breasts ever in the history of chicken breasts. They were meltingly tender on the inside and still crispy-seared-delicious on the outside. The Darling Devoted Husband and I were wowed. And really, I'm a pretty good chicken cooker, most of the time--I rarely serve the sort of dried-out chicken leather that makes people hate eating healthily. These were still better than anything I'd made before.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Use a fork to poke the thickest half of each of 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz. each; trimmed of excess fat) five to six times. Sprinkle each breast evenly with about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place skinned side down in 9x13-inch baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake:

until thickest part of the breast registers 145 to 150 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven:

and transfer, skinned side up, to paper towel-lined plate and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 12-inch skillet:

over medium-high heat until smoking.

While pan heats, whisk 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper:

with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted) in small bowl. Lightly brush top side of chicken with half of butter mixture. Place chicken in skillet, coated side down, and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. While chicken browns, brush with remaining butter mixture:

 Using tongs, flip chicken, reduce heat to medium, and cook until second side is browned and thickest part of breast registers 160 to 165 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes:

 Transfer chicken to large plate and let rest while preparing pan sauce (if not making pan sauce, let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving):

For the pan sauce, add 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons):

 to the now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes:

Add 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour:

and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth:

increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits:

Simmer rapidly until reduced to 3/4 cup, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in any accumulated chicken juices; return to simmer and cook 30 seconds:

Off heat, whisk in 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon:

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives (I substituted green onion):

and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled:

season with salt and pepper:

Spoon over chicken and serve immediately.

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