Exciting, adventurous, new dishes are always a fun to make. It keeps life exciting in the kitchen and helps keep the weekday blahs at a minimum. But these dishes really are only great once you can master the basics. It's like the old saying goes- you need to learn to walk before you can run. I am going to post a series of some nice, basic recipes- that once you have these perfected you can basically make anything at all.
Today I am going to share a absolute necessity! Sauteed Chicken. As simple as chicken may seem, it is also the one meat that so many people are completely afraid to cook. People have this fear of under cooking it, and therefore end up cooking it to death- leaving it so dry and tough, you just may as well chew on leather. Yuck. Just like most meats, timing is everything. Watch the clock and watch the temperature of your pan. You don't want to burn the outside before the inside is cooked and you also don't want to steam your chicken at too low of a heat because this takes way too long and will dry out the meat. If the pan is hot enough, a boneless skinless chicken breast should cook in exactly 4 minutes* a side. *More of less depending on thickness. It is a great idea to pound your chicken breast. This will tenderize the meat and also ensure even cooking time. If one side is super thick and the other thin, one half will start to dry out before the plump side cooks through. To pound you chicken, use a meat tenderizer. If you don't have one, a rolling pin or a heavy bottom pan would work. place the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper (to avoid splattering) and just hammer on the meat to flatten it. Try and be careful not to tear the meat, you just want to flatten it out. Tenderizing meats not only insures even cooking time but also reduces the amount of time you need to marinate your meats.
Ok so back to the chicken... after you have tenderized your chicken, you want to rinse and pat dry. Trim it of any fat around the edges and sprinkle both side with salt and fresh ground black pepper. On a plate, spread out your flour and coat the chicken on both sides, pressing to make the tenderloins (the thin strips of meat on the underside of the chicken breast) adhere. Gently shake off the excess flour; too much will just cause them to burn.
Preheat a heavy 10-12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add to the pan 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Swirl the butter and oil around until it smells awesome and is a nutty-brown color. Place the chicken in the pan, tenderloin side down and saute for exactly 4 minutes- set a timer! Do not let anything burn. If it appears like it is too hot or beginning to burn, turn down the heat a bit. Using tongs, turn your chicken and cook until the chicken feels firm to the touch, about 3-5 minutes more- don't be afraid to touch your meat! Your fingers are a great judge of doneness. A milky juice will also appear around the tenderloins. If you are afraid, you can carefully make a small slice into the thickest part of the breast to see if the juices run clear. but you really don't want to make a habit of this because when you cut into the meat you release juices that haven't had a chance to absorb back into the meat yet. This is what keeps your chicken tender and moist.
And look at that- you are done! A wonderfully juicy piece of chicken that is absolutely delicious on its own, but kicked up a notch with a nice sauce made in the pan drippings.
Serve with a side of potatoes and a fresh vegetable and you've got dinner!
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Stay tuned, my recipes for Crunchy Baked Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Shallot-Browned Butter are on their way!