Sunday Night Roast Chicken

Ever since foodie friend Deborah generously shared a start of her prodigious sage plant, I have been obsessed with using it on my poultry.  Mind you, this doesn’t mean I’ve actually USED it, just that I’ve thought about it a lot.


Deborah was kind enough to also share her favorite use for this sage, a recipe for roast chicken from Cook’s Illustrated that I have ammended ever so slightly.  Last night was the night before a big exam, so naturally I was in the mood to cook something hearty and delicious at 10:30 at night, so I gave this recipe a try for the second time, with even better results than the first.  Bonus:  it’s a CHEAP and FAST dinner that feels anything but.

Plus you get to use shallots.  Shallots are in the onion family but look like a giant purple clove of garlic.  The cashier will say “What is this?”  and you’ll get to say “Oh that? That’s a shahhhhh-lot…it’s in the onion family”  They’re actually quite beautiful and have a much milder flavor than white onion, luckily for onion-hater-Anna.

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You will need:

  • 2 split chicken breasts, skin on (I’ve also done this with a whole chicken, spatchcocked, for a more folksy meal with dark meat)
  • 1/2 cup salt (regular iodized, or 1 cup kosher salt if you’re feeling fansay)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Vegetable Oil-please resist the urge to use fancy olive oil, it’s unneccessary and will SMOKE at the temperatures we’ll be using!
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, torn (you could also use fresh thyme or another herb, or I’d just throw in a clove of raw garlic….actually, I think I’ll do that next time…) If you don’t have fresh sage, ask me for some!!!!!! I STILL haven’t killed the plant she gave me!!!!!!!
  • 3 tablespoons butter, separated

Le Chicken:

1. Dissolve the salt in 2 quarts of cold water.  Submerge chicken breasts in salty water for 2 hours (If using whole chicken, brine 6 hours or as long as you can wait)

2. Preheat the oven to 450.  That’s not in Kelvins, folks, this is hot!

3.  Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  (The rinse doesn’t need to be super thorough, you’re just rinsing excess salt, but the drier the chicken is, the nicer and crispier your skin will get!  )

4.  Season chicken breasts with pepper.

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5.  Heat a tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat in a heavy ovenproof skillet until it begins to shimmer, swirl to coat the pan.  Place chicken breasts skin-side down in skillet and sautee about 5 minutes or until the skin is nice and brown.  Flip the breasts and cook another 3 or 4 minutes.

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6.  Stick the whole skillet in the oven and roast the chicken for 15-20 minutes – until a meat thermometer reads 160 at the thickest part of the breast.  You do use a meat thermometer, right????   Fine, fine, until the juices run clear when you poke the chicken with a knife.  

7.  Pull the skillet out and let the chicken rest off the heat for at least 10 minutes while you make THE SAUCE.

Le Sauce:

REMEMBER!  A skillet which has just been removed from a hot oven will have a handle that is hot.  I remind you because I NEVER remember this.  See handle–> Grab –> Curse.

1.  Pour off all but a tablespoon or so.  Just kidding, I never do this.  But you probably should, as my shallot always turns out more deep-fried than sauteed.

2.  Add the minced shallot to the skillet and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until it softens but doesn’t brown.  If you are using garlic, saute that now as well.  Take a whiff.  

3.  Add wine, stock, and sage to the pan and cook until reduced to about 3/4 c.  (This will take about 5 minutes of simmering.) I hate when recipes tell you how much sauce you should have at the end of reduction….I can’t eyeball 3/4 cup in a 12′ skillet!!!

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4.  Off the heat, whisk in each tablespoon of butter until full incorporated.  Stir in any juices that have come off the resting chicken.

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5.  Pour gravy ALL OVER the potatoes and green beans you should have made while the chicken was cooking and FEAST!

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This meal will easily serve 2 people and actually will serve 4 if you are willing to serve halves of pterodactyl breasts that Tyson now sells.  I frequently buy and freeze packs of split chicken breasts and they work beautifully for this application when thawed.