Chicken is great and all...but pan sauce makes everything better.
I love cooking. I don’t do it enough. I’ve picked up so many trade tricks standing in the kitchen and dipping my fingers in practically everything when the Chef wasn’t looking, and there are some things that you just don’t find out about until you’re standing under a commercial rotisserie dipping your bread in fat drippings while dodging hot fat drippings at the same time. Hot fan burns, but it’s worth it.
Since today's wine pick was inspired by a home-cooked meal, here’s an easy recipe that will impress and satisfy, even if it’s just for you. The key element is pan sauce, a favorite discovery of mine and not unlike the rotisserie drippings…
The basics on pan sauce:
This style of pan sauce will work whether you're cooking poultry, red meat, or pork, by the way.
Pan sauces come in a huge range of flavors because they depend on the protein you’re cooking but the fundamentals are constant:
- Sautéed aromatics: things like garlic, shallots, and onions, carrots, and celery go in the pan first and get cooked in a bit of fat rendered off from the protein you just cooked, before adding the remaining ingredients.
- Liquids. Broth or stock are needed for every pan sauce. Wine gets tossed in for complexity and brightness, so have a glass in your hand while you cook, obv. The reason restaurant pan sauces are so freakin’ good is because of their homemade stocks. If you can get your hands on some of that it will add a depth of awesomeness to your end sauce because of the gelatin factor (you can use a little gelatin in yours if you wish, it comes in a packet found at the grocery store but I just roll with what I have on hand).
- Butter. Butter’s added after the liquids reduce and concentrate in flavor to accent and round out the flavors and create that sexy sheen you see in restaurant sauces. Glossy.
- Finishing Ingredients. Any herbs, or a squeeze of lemon juice if the sauce needs acid, go in at the very end.
Here’s what you need (besides SOME Corbieres Rouge in your glass):
- 2 whole airline or boneless, skin-on chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each) – you can use pork chops or steaks, too, just adjust the cook times. Method is the same.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 generous tbs olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry red wine – the one you’re already drinking
- 1/2 cup broth or stock – either the low-sodium chicken stock or homemade kind with no salt added
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
BEFORE YOU START COOKING:
Turn on speakers and play track below. This is a must have ingredient.
Oven check: rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F.
Pat chicken breasts dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in an oven-safe medium stainless steel skillet over high heat until just starting to smoke.
Carefully lay chicken breasts into hot skillet skin side down with tongs (careful it will splash!)
Let ‘em cook without moving it for a good five minutes before you start peeking underneath at all – this is where the browning magic happens. Test by lifting the chicken with a thin metal spatula or tongs, but if doesn't lift easily, let it keep cooking. When it's ready to be flipped, it will come up without a fight.
That deep golden brown, ridiculously crispy surface is the goal here. Once you got that, flip the chicken over so you can see your artwork, a satisfying moment.
Carefully flip chicken breasts skin side up, and transfer entire skillet to the oven.
Cook chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breasts registers 150°F, about 7 to 12 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and transfer chicken to a cutting board. Set aside to rest while you make the pan sauce. PAN SAUCE!
Okay, all that was just prep. Now for the goods:
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet and put the skillet back over high heat.
Add shallots and garlic, cook and stir until softened and fragrant – it only takes about 30 seconds.
Add wine first (from the glass that you’re drinking out of if you want to feel really European) and let it go wild in the pan, unleashing all the bits stuck to the pan into the sauce, then add stock and keep scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Then refill your glass, so you can keep the process on track.
Continue cooking on high heat until sauce is reduced by about two-thirds, 5 to 8 minutes. It will bubble and smell so good. When your spoon drags through the sauce and forms visible streaks that slowwwly close, it’s ready.
Stir in butter and cook at a hard boil until emulsified, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper if needed. If it’s too salty, add more stock – that’s why low sodium is important, because reduction amplifies salt.
Slice chicken breasts into three pieces on a sharp bias and transfer to individual serving plates. Toss the fresh herbs into the pan sauce and stir them in to incorporate.
Spoon sauce over the chicken and serve immediately. If you’re lucky enough to have extra pan sauce, drizzle some over your salad and rice, or quinoa, or drag half a loaf of baguette through it and just soak it up.
Back-up recipe: in the event that your stove won’t turn on, or all of the Wholefoods in your 5-mile radius simultaneously and spontaneously closed the day you went to shop, here’s a back-up plan:
1. Open the Postmates (or Seamless) App on your phone
2. Hone in on your cravings, and decide (this can be the hardest part), but a burger, tacos, Italian and Chinese are good places to start…
3. Click “send order.”
Note: This specific recipe calls for two bottles, one for while you wait for the delivery, as this can take a while, the second for the actual dinner…