I know, chicken breasts, right? Quite possibly the world's most boring ingredient. Ubiquitous, often dry, reminiscent of diets. But, truth be told, I only started eating chicken itself a few years ago. I wasn't vegetarian, I just wasn't really into chicken. Until one day, as if some genetic switch had flipped on, I discovered the joy of a good Sunday-night roast chicken. The smell so familiar from my childhood was now actually tempting and pleasant to me. After that, I discovered braised chicken thighs, and only now, at almost 30 (30!) years old, have I started eating chicken breasts.
The secret here is a technique called butter basting. Essentially as the chicken is cooking, you tilt the pan and gently spoon the butter in the pan over the top of the chicken breasts repeatedly. This is a great technique for any quick sauteed meat or fish dish. I finish the chicken in the oven, and then you can serve it as is, or it's also great cut up over a salad. Our current favorite salad includes chicken, lettuce, avocado, freshly shaved coconut, and thinly sliced kumquats with a chili dressing. It is by far the best use of kumquats I've come across, and Paul has even named it the "Chili CLACK salad."
Lemon-Thyme Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts
I did not give precise cooking times here because this is really something you need to do by feel. Chicken breasts can vary greatly in terms of size, and the type of pan and amount of heat your stove gives off can make a big difference, therefore you have to use your instincts.
2 chicken breasts
1 lemon, halved
olive oil, salt, pepper
1 tablespoon butter
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves separated (dried can work too)
1. Preheat oven to 400F. If you have a convection setting turn that on.
2. Place chicken breasts in a shallow bowl. Squeeze one half of the lemon over the top. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chicken. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
3. Preheat a glug of olive oil in a medium sized saute pan. Add in the butter and swirl it around as it foams, the pan should be hot. Place chicken breasts top-side down in the pan, sprinkle half the thyme over top. Turn heat to medium and cook until nicely browned on one side, gently tilting the pan and spooning the butter over top of the chicken numerous times throughout. Flip the chicken breasts over, sprinkle remaining thyme over top, and cook another 3-5 minutes spooning butter over top a few times, until browned on the second side.
4. Slide the chicken into the oven and cook until chicken is done. On most chicken breasts there is naturally a sort of flap or indent along the center, and you can just peak in there to make sure it's not pink. Place chicken on plates, drizzle any remaining pan sauce over top. Serve with lemon wedges.