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.
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.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).