Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chicken with Flash-Seared Spring Vegetables and Pancetta

"I'd like to get married. I don't know though...you get married and the next thing you know you have a wife."
-Emo Philips

You buy whole chickens, break 'em down, and the next thing you know you have a pile of white meat. While not the best part of the chicken for flavor fanatics, they are not inedible and are valued by people eating healthy. And it turns out, if you cook them in a cast iron skillet for this recipe, chicken boobs are actually pretty good. What the chicken fond does for the vegetables though it tip-top.

Chicken with Flash-Seared Spring Vegetables and Pancetta
adapted from Cooking Club of America
click to print

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 plus 1/8 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp pepper, divided
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small sweet onion, halved, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges
1/2 c grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 c shelled fresh peas or frozen peas
1/2 c sugar snap peas, cut diagonally crosswise into thirds
1/4 c chopped pancetta (about 1 oz.)
1 c lightly packed baby spinach
1/2 c lightly packed chopped fresh basil

Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper.

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil; heat until hot.

Add chicken; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and no longer pink in center, turning once and reducing heat to medium if cooking too fast.

Chicken into the pan, ready to turn after about 4.5 minutes, and done after 9 minutes.

Remove chicken; cover loosely with foil.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet; heat over high heat until hot.

Add onion; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add tomatoes, peas, sugar snap peas, pancetta and remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 1 to 3 minutes or until crisp-tender, stirring constantly and reducing heat to medium-high to medium, if necessary.

Remove from heat. Stir in spinach and basil.

Spoon over chicken.

I really liked how the vegetables were crisp-tender, bright, and highly flavored with just a sheen of velvety chicken-flavored sauciness. Using a cast iron skillet, and simply being patient, waiting for the chicken to unstick before turning, resulted in a gorgeous brown fond which the onions readily took up giving the appearance that they were browning. Stirring the additional vegetables as they cooked loosened all of the fond and it worked marvelously.

The chicken, seasoned only with salt and pepper, when it is not overcooked, isn't too bad, and worked with the vegetables for a healthy, light meal. I would do this again.

  • boneless skinless chicken breast halves: $2.49
  • extra-virgin olive oil: $0.36
  • sweet onion: $0.28
  • grape tomatoes: $0.75
  • frozen peas: $0.38
  • sugar snap peas: $0.67
  • pancetta: $0.75
  • baby spinach: $0.50
  • fresh basil: $3.49
Total: $9.67 or about $2.42 for each of four servings.