Weeknight Cooking

Chicken Breast with Fresh Sage

September  6, 2010

Chicken with Sage

- Jenny

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

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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
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darby1736 September 10, 2015
I just fixed this wonderful dish for my daughter's birthday. She loved it! Thank you for such a great recipe.
Dan July 24, 2015
Made this tonight with garlic spaghetti and zucchini strips. Awesom!
Natosha P. March 10, 2014
What pairs well as a side? I have never made anything with sage so not sure what to do.
Amy K. November 14, 2013
I made this, dapping it to chicken breasts on the bone, and baking rather than in a pan - delicious!
Luz A. November 8, 2013
Luz A. November 8, 2013
What´s EVOO?
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 8, 2013
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Tiffany M. November 6, 2013
Looks good
Luzviminda W. November 6, 2013
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!!
catcat November 6, 2013
just realized this was orginally posted 3 years ago, but still curious about the stove and if you're still as happy with it...
catcat November 6, 2013
just curious... what kind of stove are you using?
Sarag November 6, 2013
I love everything about Patricia Wells'' Trattoria. Such a fine cookbook.
Gmarkb September 12, 2010
EVOO is Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Frances T. September 12, 2010
"Moreover" isn't a conjunction, it's an adverb, but it does indeed do wonders for a recipe and this one looks very good.
Amanda H. September 12, 2010
Thank you for the correction Franny! Will fix that.
adamnsvetcooking September 12, 2010
I made this today for lunch! it was great! Thank you for this!
courtneycarlson September 12, 2010
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!
Bob Y. September 12, 2010
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.
fortyniner September 12, 2010
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.
EDubs September 12, 2010
Yum! Making this tonight.
ShoeboxKitchen September 8, 2010
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!

Jestei September 9, 2010
hm vodka. interesting idea!
ejm September 7, 2010
Oh so very good, with the added benefit of making your house smell really good as well. Loved it!
Jestei September 7, 2010
yes that is a benefit!