Pan-roasted chicken with pan sauce—like this one flavored with fresh rosemary and lemon—is the ultimate weeknight staple. It's inexpensive, delicious, and takes less than half an hour from start to finish. Throw a great simple mixed green salad on the side, and you've got yourself one of my all-time favorite meals.
Of course, as with any simple food, all of this falls down if your chicken and pan sauce are not perfect. I'm talking glisteningly juicy chicken with crisp, deep brown skin and a rich, silky pan-sauce with bright flavor that clings to every bite. Luckily, I already did all the major legwork, so all future me has to do is adapt the technique as he sees fit.
Searing airline chicken breasts in a hot skillet and finishing them in the oven with the help of a thermometer ensures juiciness, while adding a few teaspoons of gelatin to store-bought chicken stock guarantees a pan sauce that comes out glossy and smooth every time.
For this variation, I'm going with a classic combination of rosemary and lemon, flavors that pair really well with any kind of roasted poultry or vegetable. I knew that I didn't want to stray from my basic pan-sauce method—sear and roast the chicken, remove it to rest, add aromatics to the pan while my chicken rests, deglaze with a liquid enhanced with gelatin, scrape up any browned bits, reduce, then finish with soy sauce (for added umami depth), butter (for richness), and fresh aromatics—but the process still required a tiny bit of tweaking.
My first thought was to save the rosemary until the very end, stirring it into the finished pan sauce as I would with more tender herbs like parsley or chives. It tasted fine, but the rosemary came in little overpowering bursts, rather than achieving a harmonious balance. Cooking the rosemary along with shallots before adding my liquid to the sauce produced better flavor and texture in the end.
I also decided to forgo any white wine in this recipe—doubling up on acid with wine and citrus juice was simply too much. Instead, I added only chicken stock (mixed with gelatin) to the pan after sweating my shallots and rosemary. A short strip of lemon zest enhanced lemon aroma without adding to much extra acidity.
Finally, I finished off the sauce with a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a couple pats of butter, and a few drops of soy sauce, letting it simmer hard to emulsify into a rich sauce.
This is the kind of meal I can eat hunched over the cutting board with a chef's knife and my fingers before it ever even reaches a dinner plate. At least when my wife is not at home.