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Recipe : Lemon Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Caper Pan Sauce

Three tablespoons of oil and butter might sound like a lot to saute the chicken, but don’t be tempted to skimp. The fat, in combination with high heat, is key to a chicken breast with a lightly crisped exterior, and juicy interior. You won’t be adding additional fat to make the pan sauce, so this turns out to be a relatively light version of this dish. I served this with some simple roasted squash, but angel hair pasta tossed with a little olive oil, Parmesan, and garlic salt would make a simple and lovely accompaniment.

Adapted from “The Best Recipe,” published by Cook’s Illustrated.

INGREDIENTS

1. In a medium mixing bowl combine first 5 ingredients, and stir to combine. Add Chicken breasts and toss to coat. Let sit while you slice the mushrooms.

2. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate and dredge chicken breasts in flour, coating all sides.

3. Set oven to 200 degrees. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil in a large nonreactive skillet** (see note) over medium-high heat. Butter will foam and then subside. When it begins to turn light golden brown, with a faint nutty aroma, it’s time to add the chicken breasts to the pan. Cook breasts 4 to 5 minutes per side. Use tongs to flip as necessary, and lower heat as needed, to prevent scorching.

4. When chicken feels firm to the touch, remove to an oven-proof plate or serving platter, and place in warm oven. Immediately add white wine or chicken stock to the pan. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce liquid by half. Add mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, a few grinds black pepper, and 1 tablespoon capers. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until mushrooms have released their liquid and the pan is nearly dry.

5. Add 1 teaspoon flour to mushrooms, stirring to combine. Add 1/2 cup water, bring liquid to a simmer, and reduce by half, or until a light sauce-like consistency is reached. Add chopped parsley and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you used chicken broth in place of white wine, you may wish to increase the acidity with a spritz of fresh lemon juice. Spoon mushroom mixture over chicken breasts, garnish with sliced lemon, and serve.

** A Note on Pan Choice: Best choices for creating this kind of pan sauce are stainless steel or enameled cast iron, because they get a nice brown crust, or “fond” on the cooking surface, and are non-reactive. When liquid is added and the fond is scraped up, these brown bits add tons of rich flavor. Nonstick will do just fine if that’s all you have, but won’t produce much fond, or the same rich, brown flavor. Also, since this dish uses acidic ingredients like lemon juice and white wine, cast iron or aluminum pans are not recommended. These metals will react with the acid, giving the sauce an aluminum taste.