Weeknight Cooking

Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Dijon Sauce and Crispy Pancetta

April 11, 2011

Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Dijon Sauce and Crispy Pancetta

- Jenny

Friends, we’re in this fight to perfect our chicken breasts together. Vexingly, they do everything they can to try and impede us. They dry out, become tough. Shorn of their bone, they can be flavorless. Still, we battle on, because chicken is an affordable, versatile and essential protein for the meat-eating American.

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I am happy to offer you all a very good new weapon: Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Dijon Sauce and Crispy Pancetta by Sonali. As you know, my favorite weeknight recipes are ones that require the least focus possible, so that I can go about picking the lint out of the dryer screen and lecturing my children about how good character is acquired through excessive attention to the compost heap. I don’t want to be interrupted with the unpleasant inquiry, “What’s that burning smell?” 

Luckily, Sonali has made it easy for me. I will start by telling you that I have never seen a boneless breast with the skin still on, and if you want to go to the butcher and ask for this cut, that’s fine by me, but I stuck with bone in and accepted a slightly -- and I really mean slightly -- longer cooking time. 

First, I fried up some of MrsWheelbarrow’s homemade pancetta, passing on the olive oil as the pork made enough fat by itself. Then I tossed those breasts in the cast iron pan, washed a few dishes, flipped them, let them cook another two minutes then put that skillet in the oven and walked away to ponder the debt ceiling. 

About twenty minutes later, out it came -- as usual, check your temperature carefully to avoid overcooking. I chopped up my shallots quickly, then tossed in the brown sugar and vinegar. This is a simple dish without any herbs, getting its flavor from the delicious union of acid and sugar, and is helped with homemade chicken stock, so please use that if you have it handy. The pancetta gives it a hearty bit of heft, but guess what, if you don’t have any, this is still a great dish. 

This whole concoction is oven to plate in under 30 minutes. It would be delicious with a bit of polenta, but a glass of red wine and some silence will do, too.

Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with Dijon Sauce and Crispy Pancetta by Sonali




  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, small diced
  • boneless chicken breasts, skin on
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Heat the olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until browned and crispy. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels.

  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken breasts skin side down to the drippings in the hot skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes until skin is golden brown, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook in oven 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Turn the chicken breasts halfway through cooking. Remove skillet from oven and place chicken breasts on a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.

  • Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of drippings from the skillet. Heat the skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook 1-2 minutes until translucent. Stir in the Dijon mustard and cider vinegar and cook until vinegar is reduced. Raise the heat and whisk in the chicken stock and brown sugar. Cook 3-4 minutes until sauce thickens. Taste and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

  • To serve, plate the chicken breasts and pour the pan sauce on top. Sprinkle the crispy pancetta over the top. Serve warm.

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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Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


stack April 14, 2011
Well-received last night at our home. Based on comments around the table that the sauce was a bit on the sweet side, I might drop the brown sugar a little bit next time -- but I may just have extra-granular brown sugar in my cupboard, or may have over-compressed it.

I have a pile of fresh thyme in the fridge, and in the spirit of use-it-before-it-rots, I threw a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme into the sauce, but I am not sure that it added much, if anything.
Jestei April 14, 2011
that sounds great. the sauce is on the sweet side, which i like, but i understand their pov.
testkitchenette April 12, 2011
I made this tonight. My husband would like to convey his approval to Jenny and Sonali (and MrsWheelbarrow) for its deliciousness. I cut up a whole chicken for it and used an onion (forgot the shallots at the market) and threw in some broccoli and roasted sweet and russet potatoes. So good.
Jestei April 14, 2011
so glad i am sure onions are great
randipie April 12, 2011
Made this last night while also pondering the debt ceiling (although not in a professional capacity). It was delicious and went really well with some cheesy polenta. Thanks yet again for the amazing recipes!
Jestei April 14, 2011
i love that you made it with polenta. i am getting hungry reading your comment.
phyllis April 11, 2011
Ina Garten has some recipes that use boneless chicken w/skin. I've done some other recipes that way, too, for dinner parties (more delicate). If I'm going to have skin, I want the flavor of the bones, too. I'm going to make this soon. Thank you.
Jestei April 12, 2011
I love her recipes.
boulangere April 11, 2011
My son or daughter used to choose the moment that dinner hit the stove to ask, "Mom, did you know we're out of dog food?" Having once again neglected to take my psychic pills . . . well, I'm sure you can guess the answer. This is lovely, as all yours are. Thank you.
Jestei April 12, 2011
yes we live in the same house, only you have better weather.
MrsWheelbarrow April 11, 2011
Nice way to use pancetta. I'm all over this recipe.
mcs3000 April 12, 2011
Jestei April 12, 2011
I hope you both enjoy it.
mrslarkin April 11, 2011
Jestei April 12, 2011
Lizthechef April 11, 2011
Jestei April 12, 2011
you can skip pancetta to make it more heart friendly
KarenO April 11, 2011
This is going to be a keeper for sure. Thank you!
Jestei April 12, 2011
thank you!!