It wasn't until I got my first gig cooking in restaurants that it really struck me exactly what a pan sauce is supposed to taste like: rich and smooth, glossy and brightly flavored, and leaving a streak of white plate that slowly closes as you swiped each bite through it. So what does a restaurant kitchen have that I was missing back home, and more importantly, how can you get the same results? This recipe and technique is the secret for perfect restaurant-quality pan-seared chicken and pan sauce.
Why this recipe works:
- Thickening broth with gelatin forms a thicker, glossier, far more stable emulsion than a standard pan sauce.
- Soy sauce adds a big umami boost to the sauce.
- A thermometer ensures that your chicken comes out perfectly moist with crisp skin every time.
- 2 whole airline chicken breasts or boneless skin-on chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces each)
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt (see note) and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil (optional)
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F. Pat chicken breasts dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an oven-safe medium stainless steel skillet over high heat until just starting to smoke. Carefully lay chicken breasts into hot skillet skin side down. Cook without moving until skin is deep golden brown and very crisp, about 6 minutes. Carefully flip chicken breasts and transfer skillet to the oven.
While chicken roasts, combine wine and stock in a liquid measuring cup and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside.
Cook chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breasts registers 150°F, about 7 to 12 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and transfer chicken to a cutting board. Set aside to rest while you make the pan sauce.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet and place over high heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine/stock mixture and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking on high heat until sauce is reduced by about two-thirds, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in butter and soy sauce and cook at a hard boil until emulsified, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
Slice chicken breasts into three pieces on a sharp bias and transfer to individual serving plates. Stir herbs into the pan sauce. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
Oven-safe 10-inch skillet
If using a different brand or type of salt, be sure to use the weight measurement, not the volume measurement.