Katie Workman Katie Workman
September 09, 2015

You’ve got a pan. You’ve got a package of chicken breasts. What you don’t have is a clever thought about turning them anything special.

This is where a pan sauce comes in. Basically this is a sauce made right in the same pan you used to cook the chicken, using the browned bits stuck to the bottom (the fond, if you want to know the official culinary term), some aromatics (like onion or garlic), some liquid, and maybe some extra seasonings to finish the whole thing off. Return your chicken to the pan or drizzle the sauce over the chicken, and sit your clever self down to dinner in less than 30 minutes.

Here are the key steps. 

1) In a large skillet, in a bit of oil or butter, sear the boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they are browned on the outside and just barely cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. If you plan to finish the cooking in the sauce itself, you can take the food out of the pan before it is fully cooked through.

2) Remove the chicken to a plate – DO NOT WASH OUT THE PAN!

3) Sauté some onions, garlic, shallots, or other aromatics (usually some member of the onion family) in the pan for a couple of minutes until tender.  Add some seasonings if desired.

4) Deglaze the pan with some wine or broth (I usually use white wine when I’m making chicken, but red is great for steaks and other cuts of meat), scraping up the browned bits on the bottom.  Deglazing basically means adding liquid to a pan and scraping the bottom to loosen any flavorful bits of other ingredients that have caramelized (aka browned) on the bottom of the pan, which lend their flavor to the sauce.

5) Add more liquid, often broth, to create a sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.

6) Simmer to blend the flavors, and concentrate the sauce, adding other seasonings if desired, like fresh herbs, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in a bit of butter (unless there is cream in the sauce). Check the seasoning and either pour the sauce over the chicken, or return the chicken to the sauce to heat through.  Boom, pan sauce.

White Wine Tarragon Pan Sauce Season 4 chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken breasts and sauté until just barely done, about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside.  Add ¼ cup minced onion and sauté over medium heat for minutes until it starts to color and become tender.  Raise the heat to medium high, then add ½ cup dry white wine and stir to scrape up all the little flavorful bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the skillet.   Add 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth and 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarrragon, and return to a simmer, stirring occasionally for another 4 minutes until the mixture reduces slightly.  Remove from the heat, stir in the butter until it is melted, and season with additional salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts.

Mustard Cream Pan Sauce Season 4 chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken breasts and sauté until just barely done, about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside.  Add 1 minced shallot and sauté over medium heat for minutes until it starts to color and become tender.  Raise the heat to medium high, then add ¼ cup dry white wine and stir to scrape up all the little flavorful bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the skillet, letting the wine reduce by half.   Add ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth and allow to reduce again by about half. Add ½ cup cream and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (smooth or whole grain), and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts.

Wild Arugula Piccata Pan Sauce Season 4 chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken breasts and sauté until just barely done, about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside.  Add 1 minced shallot and sauté over medium heat for minutes until it starts to color and become tender.  Raise the heat to medium high, then add ½ cup dry white wine and stir to scrape up all the little flavorful bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the skillet, letting the wine reduce by half.   Add ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth and allow the liquid to reduce again by about half. Add 1 tablespoon chopped rinsed capers, 1 cup roughly chopped arugula, and heat through for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the juice of one lemon and 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts.

 

 

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