Weeknights with Jenny

Chicken Breast with Fresh Sage

September 6, 2010 • 35 Comments

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Chicken with Sage

- Jenny

I really am going to stop talking about my stove soon.

But for the first time in my cooking life, I am able to cook chicken on the stove top without it sticking to the pan and destroying all my hopes and dreams, or at least the ones pertainings to poultry, before my very eyes. I have chosen to believe this is less about my failure as a cook, or my unfettered impatience when it comes to turning meat before it's time, and rather about the failures of my prior stoves to heat things evenly.

Just work with me on this delusion, because it’s leading somewhere.

Although I have often scorned the boneless chicken breast, I saw some that were so lovely at the Bethesda farmers market on Sunday I had to pick them up. This takes us to Chicken Breast with Fresh Sage, which was instantly appealing on several levels. First of all, it’s adapted from a Patricia Wells recipe, which is practically synonymous with guaranteed-simply-divine; it involves sage, one of my favorite herbs and there are few other ingredients to mess with here.

(Bonus: our poster, JulieBee, uses the word "moreover" in describing its lemony deliciousness; I just love a recipe that employs an adverb!)

The first thing you will notice is the call for what seems like an excessive number of sage leaves. (Is it just me or has there been a shortage of sage at the markets this year? I noticed this all year in L.A., where it is currently easier to procure medical marijuana some days than furry batches of this herb, and the trend continues in D.C., where I had to settle for one lonely bunch from the herb lady, who seemed genuinely pained by my sage-less sadness yet fobbed the blame on the last sage-hoarding customer.) Don’t worry –- if you get a nice big bunch you will have plenty for this recipe.

So once you get your olive oil and butter going, pop your nice chicken breasts in there (hopefully purchased from people who raise really good flavorful birds it does make a difference here) and let them sizzle away. Are you tempted to turn them too early? Please stop that.

Once you have turned the breasts, tuck your sage leaves under and close to (as opposed to the not-quite-specific “around” that the recipe suggest) and keep a watchful eye so that you don’t over cook them. I realize this can be a tricky dance (one of my breasts would not quite finish in the center) so if you have particularly plump meat you may wish to finish this in the oven.

The sauce reduction takes no time and really enhances this dish, a bit of lemony goodness infused will all important butter fat. You can actually skip the last bit of butter if you choose, but then please don’t serve it to me.

Chicken Breast with Fresh Sage

By JulieBee (Adapted from "Trattoria" by Patricia Wells)

Serves 2 to 4

  • 4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken cutlets
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 28 Fresh sage leaves
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Marinate chicken with the lemon juice, sage and olive oil for 30 minutes. The lemon here both flavors and tenderizes the chicken.
2. After 30 minutes remove chicken and pat dry. Strain marinade and put aside. Reserve sage leaves separately and put aside.
3. In large skillet, melt butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot and bubbly. Add chicken breasts smooth side down and cook until evenly brown...about 5 minutes (cooking time will be much less if you are using cutlets).Turn breasts over and season GENEROUSLY with salt and pepper. Tuck reserved sage leaves around the chicken and cook until chicken is browned on the bottom but still juicy... about 5-10 minutes more. Do not scorch the sage.
4. Remove chicken to platter and season second side with salt and pepper. Scatter sage leaves on top and also add lemon wedges to plate. Cover loosely with foil. Discard any fat from skillet. Add reserved lemon marinade into skillet on high heat. Reduce to a glaze...add tablespoon of butter and pour over chicken. Serve asap. Yummy.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
Jennifer Steinhauer

Tags: everyday cooking

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Comments (35)


about 1 year ago Natosha Pitcock

What pairs well as a side? I have never made anything with sage so not sure what to do.


over 1 year ago Amy K.

I made this, dapping it to chicken breasts on the bone, and baking rather than in a pan - delicious!


over 1 year ago Luz Artigas



over 1 year ago Luz Artigas

What´s EVOO?


over 1 year ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

sexyLAMBCHOPx is a trusted home cook.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


over 1 year ago Tiffany moore

Looks good


over 1 year ago Luzviminda Waltman

I do have some sage in a pot at my porch apartment and it growing wild,some of them I dried and tie in a bunch but there is still a lot more,so I think im gonna do thechicken with fresh sage,mm that sounds delicious!!


over 1 year ago catcat

just realized this was orginally posted 3 years ago, but still curious about the stove and if you're still as happy with it...


over 1 year ago catcat

just curious... what kind of stove are you using?


over 1 year ago Sarag

I love everything about Patricia Wells'' Trattoria. Such a fine cookbook.


over 4 years ago Gmarkb

EVOO is Extra Virgin Olive Oil


over 4 years ago Frances Taliaferro

"Moreover" isn't a conjunction, it's an adverb, but it does indeed do wonders for a recipe and this one looks very good.


over 4 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you for the correction Franny! Will fix that.


over 4 years ago adamnsvetcooking

I made this today for lunch! it was great! Thank you for this!


over 4 years ago courtneycarlson

I have insane amounts of sage in my NW DC garden. I planted a little seedling three years ago when we moved in and the thing is practically a shrub. So get thee to American Plant on your way back from the Bethesda Farmer's market and plant some!


over 4 years ago Bob Y

I enjoy your writing and wish you well in your new beat although I suspect you could have a career as a food writer. Your voice is most enjoyable. But what on earth is EVOO? I see no reference to it in the recipe directions.


over 4 years ago fortyniner

Thanks for this recipe - we have so much Sage in our Spring garden at present (we are down under in Oz). It always amazes me at how expensive sage is to buy from the grocers yet grows almost like a weed once happily settled in the garden or tubs.

This chicken dish will definitely be on the menu at our place this week.


over 4 years ago EDubs

Yum! Making this tonight.


over 4 years ago ShoeboxKitchen

We just made this for dinner except we didn't have fresh sage on hand so we just added lemon pepper - the chicken was delicious - moist, juicy, tons of flavor - we deglazed the pan with vodka and poured the reduction over the finished product - wow, wonderful.

Thanks for the inspiration!



over 4 years ago Jestei

hm vodka. interesting idea!


over 4 years ago ejm

Oh so very good, with the added benefit of making your house smell really good as well. Loved it!


over 4 years ago Jestei

yes that is a benefit!


over 4 years ago mcs3000

I recently only started using sage (lame, I know). Added sage to some Rancho Gordon beans and became an instant convert. So I'm happy to see this recipe.

On another note, good luck with the new job! I have missed your other byline. The paper is not the same without it.


over 4 years ago Jestei

thank you! i will be back in the paper soon, though probably of interest to you only if you are deeply compelled by rules committees. see you here! xx oo


over 4 years ago JulieBee

It's me, Julie Bee! I've been getting hits on my blog like crazy ever since you posted this fabulous recipe. And thanks to Dr Babs and Chez Suzanne for their kind words about my silly blog...they made my day.
Getting back to the recipe, I must insist that you also prepare the Patricia Well's Lemon Risotto recipe that I posted. It has truly sublime depth of flavor. Although it's a slightly time consuming recipe, due to the constant stirring, it is worth every second you spend over the pot. Trust me, you will thank me for years to come if you try this.


over 4 years ago Jestei

that's great julie! i have enjoyed your blog as well!