Roasted Chicken Breasts/Thighs, with Herbs & Wine (or Baba Ghanoush)

Chickens

Chickens

by Cat, Oct 2007 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Pan roasting was a new experience for me, but after trying this recipe from Cook’s Magazine, I’m hooked, and have used the same technique for other meats as well. It’s quick and easy, and the result is delicious. Slow roasting in the oven is probably a more healthful way to roast meats, but takes much longer.

Aug 2015 update: I couldn’t get bone-in, skin-on breasts, so I made this with 2 bone-in, skin-on thighs which I brined before pan-roasting. I used dry vermouth to deglaze the pan, and my homemade chicken stock flavored with garlic, fresh sage and thyme for the sauce. Delicious! I think I like this even better with thighs.

In addition to the main recipe, I also provide a variation with Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant & Garbanzo Dip). 

11/21/21 NOTE: I’ve made the original recipe more times than I can count, but have not recorded any of these tests. I’m going to make this for Thanksgiving this year, using 2 half-breasts, with sage and garlic; perhaps I’ll record my “test” this time.

Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts or Thighs

This recipe is adapted from Cook’s Magazine, and serves 2.  It is one of my weekly staples, as it is quick and easy to fix. Sometimes I make it for Thanksgiving.

You can easily double or triple the recipe. You can also vary the flavor by using different herbs or different wines, such as:

  • dry vermouth with fresh sage or tarragon;
  • sherry with fresh thyme;
  • dry red wine with fresh rosemary.

When I make Chicken Stock or Broth, I pour part of the batch into 2 ice cube trays and freeze.  2 cubes = ¼ cup.  (Be sure to measure the volume of the cubes in your cube tray, as they may be a different size).  This allows me to use a small quantity of stock at a time, such as is required in this recipe.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND using skinless/boneless chicken because these are essential for the proper flavor and texture, not to mention the health benefits of the skin and bones (including the bone marrow). Do not remove skin from the chicken breasts before cooking; if you do, the result will be tough and dry.

The original recipe uses olive oil for browning and chicken over high heat, but high temperatures will cause the oil to break down and go rancid (produce free radicals). Therefore I recommend using a fat that can tolerate the high heat, such as lard, coconut oil, avocado oil, or ghee (palm oil also works, but it is greatly responsible for loss of rain forests in SE Asia, that are essential for climate control).

Oven vs Pan Roasting:

After browning the chicken in a skillet, there are two ways you can go (see Methods section of recipe below for more detail):

  • Pan Roast: This is my preferred option, as you won’t have to clean-up the oven splatters. and you leave the breasts/thighs in the skillet, with the lid on (which minimizes the splatters on the stove-top).
  • Oven roast: You leave the breasts/thighs in the oven-proof skillet, skin-side down, to roast in the oven, uncovered; this means there will be oven splatters.  Then roast in a preheated 4500 F. oven for 15 – 18 minutes  (depending on size of the breasts), uncovered.  Turn oven off when done.

Thickener Options, for the Sauce:

See Non-Flour Starches and Other Thickeners for more detail about the different starches and flours that can be used as thickeners. My preference is tapioca starch for this sauce. The amount you use depends on the amount of liquids used, and how thick you want the sauce.

My original version of the sauce didn’t include any thickeners at all – just butter, which lightly thickens it. But as time has passed, I’ve  thickened it more and more. I recommend starting with the low amount in the Ingredients list, below; you can always add more if you want it to be more thick.

There are two ways to use the thickener:

  1. Add starch directly to the wine/stock mix, then whisk until it dissolves and thickens;
  2. Make a buerre manie using ½ tsp each flour/tapioca starch and butter (instructions included in the linked article).

Serves 2

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 2 chicken breast halves, with skin and rib bones, brined, 1 hour; OR 4 chicken thighs with skin and bone, brined 90 min;  
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 – 3 tsp lard or coconut/avocado oil
  • Sauce:
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced (for milder flavor, such as when using sherry wine, mince a small shallot)
  • 3 whole fresh sage leaves (or 3 – 6 leaves French tarragon)
  • ½ cup dry white wine, such as dry vermouth
  • ½ cup homemade rich chicken stock (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ tsp unbleached white flour or tapioca starch, to start; you may need more depending on how thick you want the sauce.  My preference is tapioca starch because it dissolves better than flour.
  • 2 – 4 Tbsp butter

Sauce Whisk

  • Equipment:
  • large bowl (for brining)
  • cast iron skillet with oven-proof handle
  • splatter screen
  • sauce whisk (photo, right, from Amazon)

Method:

  1. Prep: Place breasts/thighs in a bowl of salt brine, and let rest in refrigerator for 1 – 1½ hours (1 hour for breasts, 1½ hr for thighs). Refer to How to brine Chicken for  instructions.
  2. Prepare/thaw homemade chicken stock (or use a commercial broth).
  3. Meanwhile, mince the garlic (or shallot); wash and dry sage leaves (or other herbs); if leaves are large, cut in half along the center stem.
  4. After 30 minutes of brining, remove chicken from brine; rinse, and dry with a paper towel. If the half-breasts are large, cut in half, horizontally.
  5. If you didn’t brine the chicken, salt all sides.
  6. Lightly pepper all sides.
  7. If you plan to oven-roast (optional–see above), preheat oven to 4500 F.
  8. Sear: Heat lard/oil in cast iron skillet over high heat.  Add chicken pieces, skin side down.  Cover with a splatter screen to minimize splattering (do not use a lid).  Sear over high heat 5 minutes.  Using a kitchen tong, turn over each piece, and cook another 3 (5 for thighs) minutes. 
  9. Roast (pan or oven): Turn pieces over again (skin side down), cover with lid, and turn heat down to medium-high for pan-roast, or turn off if oven-roast.
  10. Roast chicken about 15 – 18 minutes for breast, 20 – 30 minutes or more for thighs – depending on size of the pieces – following one of the two methods described below (I prefer pan-roast). Center of breast should register 165°F (breasts) or 175°F (thighs) with an instant read thermometer.
    • Pan Roast: If you don’t like cleaning up the oven splatters, turn chicken skin-side down, put a lid on the skillet and roast on top of the stove with the burner on medium high for 10 – 18 minutes (depending on size of the breasts), or up to 20 – 35 min for thighs. This is the method I use.
    • Oven roast: According to the original recipe, you turn off the burner but leave the breasts in the oven-proof skillet, skin-side down.  Then roast in a preheated 4500 F. oven for 15 – 20 minutes  (depending on size of the breasts), uncovered.  Turn oven off when done.
  11. Remove chicken pieces to a platter and keep warm.
  12. Sauce: There should be plenty of chicken fat mixed with the lard/oil in the pan.  You can pour off some if you wish, but retain at least a tablespoon.  Place pan over medium heat; add garlic (or shallot) and herbs; saute, stirring until garlic softens a bit, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  13. Add wine and stir/whisk well, scraping browned bits off the bottom of the pan to flavor the sauce, for about 2 minutes. Add stock and continue to stir/whisk; if using frozen broth cubes, stir until they are melted.  I like to use a special whisk made for sauces (see above), but a fork will also work.  Cook until nearly half the volume.
  14. Thicken (2 options):
    • Add flour/starch while whisking, to avoid lumps.
    • Or make a buerre manie using ½ tsp flour/tapioca starch and ½ tsp butter, mashed together then rolled into 2 small balls; add to pan and whisk until dissolved and sauce thickens. Check the chicken pieces; if any juices have leaked out, add them to sauce in pan.
  15. Add butter, 1 Tbsp at a time, whisking it into the sauce until it is incorporated, before adding the next bit of butter.  When all butter has been incorporated, pour sauce over the chicken pieces on the platter and serve.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions

  • I like to serve this with steamed brown rice, or cooked wild rice.  You can garnish with sprigs of herb or parsley.
  • The red wine version is excellent with buttered linguine or fettucini on the side.
  • Another excellent side dish is seared green beans or asparagus.

 

Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with Baba Ghanoush

Three Types of Eggplant

(photo, left, from Wikimedia Commons) I came up with this combination when I got two small eggplants in my CSA bounty.  They were too small to make Eggplant Parmesan or Moussaka, and I didn’t have anything else to add to a stir fry, so I decided to make a small batch of Baba Ghanoush.  But what to have with this treat?  Pan Roasted chicken!

Make pan roasted chicken recipe above, with the following modifications:

  1. Brine, then season breasts with a bit of ground cumin, in addition to black pepper.
  2. Sear and roast the breasts as above, but don’t make the sauce.
  3. Slice the roasted breast meat and arrange on plate around a mound of Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip).
  4. Sprinkle with minced fresh parsley, and serve.  Excellent with pita or hichnaan bread and Tabouli (Tabbouleh), which is parsley, bulgur & tomato salad on the side.

Testing original recipe:

I’ve made this zillions of times, since the early 200s, but have not recorded my testing, so for 2021 Thanksgiving, I decided to record a test:

11/25/21: Prep: Used two very large Hutterite half-breasts with skin and bones, pre-brined, then seasoned with black pepper. Seared both half-breasts (both sides, 5 min each side), then set one of the half-breasts aside in the fridge to finish 3-4 days out. For tonight’s Thanksgiving meal, I pan-roasted the other half-breast (skin-side down, with lid) 0ver medium-high until done. These breasts are quite large, so takes longer to roast to temp. Checked after 15 min: only 140°; checked after 18 total min: 145°; checked again after 25 total min: 165° – hooray!. Moved to platter with lid, to keep it warm. Made full-recipe of sauce: However, I forgot to take my chicken stock out of the freezer, so had to wait for enough to thaw. Used 2 large, fresh garlic cloves (minced), 4 fresh sage leaves, ½ cup dry vermouth, ½ cup chicken stock (reserved about 1 Tbsp of stock to mix with ½ tsp tapioca starch for thickener). Sautéed garlic and sage leaves in the pan about 2 min; added dry vermouth and whisked to combine; then added stock, whisked again, then whisked in the stock/starch combo and cooked until thickened; had to add another ½ tsp starch to thicken it enough. Forgot to add butter (darn). Then used about 1/3 of the sauce for each half a half-breast; will need to make more sauce with next half-breast.  Reserved unused sauce (in fridge) for future servings. Served with steamed (long-cooked) wild rice, and braised, fresh asparagus.  Result: Served half a half-breast. Delicious, as always. Nice, tender chicken, tasty sauce and the accompaniments were perfect. A couple days later, had most of the other half-half-breast; saved the leftover for when I cook the other half breast.

12/1/21: Reserved half-breast: Removed from fridge to warm up, then at 6:25 PM, warmed some coconut oil, then placed breast placed in pan, skin-side down and lightly seared about 2 min, flipped over for another 2 min. Then flipped again so skin-side is down, to roast over medium-high heat (with lid). Checked temp after 15 min: only 140°F so checked again after 25 total min: 160°F; added reserved leftover meat from first half-breast to warm, and checked again after 28 total min: 165°F.  Removed to platter with lid over to keep it warm. Sauce: minced clove of garlic and washed/dried fresh sage leaves and set aside; measured 1/4 cup each vermouth and chicken stock and set aside; mixed 1/4 tsp starch with a bit of water and set aside. Prepare sauce: sautéed garlic and sage in fat in pan; added vermouth and whisked to scrape browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Added chicken stock; whisked again. Added starch/water mix and whisked, but need more starch so added another 1/8 tsp with leftover sauce from previous breast, and whisked. Almost thick enough so added 1 Tbsp butter and whisked until well mixed. Perfectly thick! Served with steamed (long-cooked) wild rice, and braised, fresh asparagus and broccoli. Result: Delicious again!

12/25/21 (Christmas Day): Made as before, except: used 3 good-sized thighs; seared thighs 5 min on each side (it took longer than I thought for the thighs to reach desired temp (175°F), about 35 min). For sauce: used 2 large garlic cloves and 4 fresh sage leaves, and ½ cup each vermouth and chicken stock. Needed about 1½ tsp tapioca starch to thicken, followed by 2 Tbsp butter. Served with steamed (long-cooked) wild rice, braised, fresh broccoli, and simmered beet. Result: Delicious again! I actually like the thighs better than breast, but I’ll still make both off and on.

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