Seared Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Chive Pan Sauce

April 8, 2011

I saw this recipes on the new “Weeknight Workhorse” episode of America’s Test Kitchen two nights ago; then made it last night. It’s hallmark is a nicely browned exterior, but while still maintaining a moist interior. Too often chicken breasts become dry and tasteless. This recipe’s secret is to par-cook the chicken in a very low oven (just 275-degrees). Then coated the chicken with a butter/flour/cornstarch paste to protect it while browning it in a skillet (a technique from Chinese stir-fry).  The results of this easy to make dish is 3-1/2 stars. The chicken breast has a great crust, but is still moist inside. The sauce is flavorful, but somewhat monolithic. It could use a little more complexity, tasting more of chicken stock than lemon or chives.


Easy to make and ready in 1 hour (sorry still only cell phone pictures)

As I said, this recipe deserved 3-1/2 stars. It is ready in just 1 hour, but there is only about 20 minutes worth of work. The biggest drawback is that it makes a bit of a mess in the kitchen.


  1. The lemon-chive pan sauce was the one made on the ATK episode, but there is also a Fennel and Mustard version as well as a Bourbon and Cranberry version. They both sound like they could offer a little more complexity that the lemon-chive sauce lacked.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original for the chicken is here, and the lemon and chive pan sauce recipe is here.  While the sauce is also described on the episode, it is only available as “premium content” on the ATK website. In any case, the descriptions of how I cooked both the chicken and the sauce are given below:

Chicken Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Lemon Chive Pan sauce:

1 medium shallot
1 teaspoon flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh chives
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Trim any excess fat from chicken breasts. Poke the thick-end (not the tapered end) of each breast 5 to 6 times with a fork, to allow for the salt to fully season the chicken.
  3. Sprinkle both sides of each breast with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per breast. Place chicken in 13″x9″ Pyrex dish with the “skin side” down, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. This will help prevent the chicken from drying out. Bake for 35 minutes, until the thickest part of breast registers about 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  4. Meanwhile, melt butter in small bowl by microwaving for 35 seconds, and line a plate with two layers of paper towels.
  5. Remove chicken from baking dish and put on the paper towel-lined plate (“skin-side” up), and dry the tops with more paper towels.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in 12-inch regular (not non-stick) skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. While the pan and oil are heating, whisk flour, cornstarch, and pepper together with the melted butter.
  8. Brush “skin-side” of chicken with half of butter mixture.
  9. Place in hot skillet with the coated side down, and cook for 4 minutes. Brush the remaining butter mixture onto the chicken as the first side cooks. Flip chicken with tongs and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the second side until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165 degrees using an instant-read thermometer; about 4 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, mince the shallot and chives.
  11. Place the cooked chicken on a clean plate and let rest, uncovered, for at least 5 minutes.
  12. To make the sauce, add the minced shallot to the skillet. Cook over medium heat until softened for 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly to absorb the fat in the pan. Add broth, slowly at first, then increase the heat to medium-high. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the fond while you bring the pan up to a simmer. Reduced the liquid to 3/4 cup, which takes about 5 minutes. Add back any accumulated chicken juices from the resting plate; cook for another 30 seconds.
  13. Remove from burner and whisk in lemon juice, minced chives. Add butter and stir using whisk until melted. Season with salt and pepper, then spoon over chicken.

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