I’ve known how to make great seared chicken breasts for many years, but always found the sauce too thin and runny, even when I allowed extra time for reduction or finished with an extra dollop butter. But when I ordered the same dish at a decent restaurant, the sauce was always beautifully thick and satisfying. So I asked if the chef would share his/her secret. Here’s what came back – add gelatin!
I tested it, and then googled it and found the Food Lab’s recipe (click image above to open in new window), and compared both versions. I share the highly satisfying result with you here.
- One boneless chicken breast per person (this assures leftovers) – I prefer skin on – allowed to dry in refrigerator for at least four hours, or overnight.
- ½ cup dry white wine, unoaked or lightly oaked
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 1½ tsp powdered gelatin (tapioca powder also works)
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tsp minced garlic (about one clove)
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- Fresh herbs, minced (any or all of chives, parsley, tarragon and chervil)
With oven rack placed at center height, pre-heat oven to 450. Liberally season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
Combine wine and chicken stock and sprinkle gelatin on top. Set aside.
Heat a wide, flat, oven-proof skillet (stainless steel, if you have it) over medium high for 3-4 minutes; add the oil and then the chicken breasts, skin-side down. RESIST touching the chicken for about five minutes, then check on progress – flip the breasts when the skin is deep golden brown, usually about six minutes if your heat is right. After flipping, transfer your skillet to the oven.
When a thermometer (inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast) registers an internal temperature of 150 degrees (6-10 minutes, depending on the size of the poultry), place the skillet on a burner and transfer chicken to a cutting board to rest before carving.
Pour off all but ~1 Tbsp of chicken fat from the skillet, then set your fire to high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and stir until fragrant – just 30 seconds or so. Add the stock/wine/gelatin mixture and deglaze the pan, stirring up any of the fond – the brown bits from the chicken. Reduce by 2/3 (4-6 minutes, depending on your heat) then finish your sauce by whisking in the butter and soy, cooking for several seconds at a high boil until emulsified. Remove from heat, stir in the minced herbs, and add any salt/pepper to taste.
Slice the chicken breasts into ¾ inch slices and transfer the whole breast to individual plates, overlapping the slices before spooning on the sauce. Serve with choice of potatoes and green vegetable.
Difficulty: Easy-Medium. Time required: 45-60 minutes, depending on wine consumption.
Variations: this basic recipe can be taken in a million different directions. Think about adding sautéed mushrooms to pull it in an earthy direction, or dried cherries/cranberries for a sweet/savory direction. Pound out the breasts and add lemon and capers and you’ve got Piccata. Or add a bit of cumin, raisins and pine nuts and head towards Morocco!