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Chicken Breast with Fresh Sage

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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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