It doesn't take a Christmas miracle to make a luxurious dish that's special enough for company, but still healtful and easy.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are virtually fat free, cook quickly and are mild enough to go with almost any flavors. And using a simple technique, they can be sauteed using little added fat and finished with a sauce made in the same pan.
To guarantee quick and even cooking, place the chicken breasts on a clean work surface, cover with plastic wrap, then pound them to a uniform thickness using the flat side of a meat mallet, a heavy skillet or a rolling pin.
Next, the chicken is dredged through flour that has been lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. This adds flavor and helps them brown nicely during cooking.
To make the pan sauce, aromatics such as onions or shallots are sauteed in the same pan until lightly browned. The skillet then is deglazed to loosen the browned bits to create a flavorful base for the sauce.
At this point, the sauce can be finished any number of ways. Add some lemon juice and chopped capers to make a piccata sauce, or diced pineapple and jalapenos to make a vibrant tropical dish.
Use reduced fat sour cream and some coarse-grained Dijon mustard to make a tangy and creamy sauce.
A half-teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of liquid can be used to thicken the sauce.
This recipe for chicken breasts with currant and thyme sauce has complex flavors well suited to fall and winter. You can find dried currants with the raisins and other dried fruits in most markets.
The dish is sophisticated enough for a dinner party, yet quick enough for a busy weeknight. Serve with couscous or rice-shaped orzo pasta to soak up every bit of the delicious sauce.
How To Make It
Start to finish: 30 minutes (15 minutes active)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 11/4 pounds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 medium shallots, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dried currants
11/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Arrange the chicken breasts in a single layer on a work surface and cover with plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, heavy skillet or a rolling pin, pound them until flattened to about 1/2-inch thick.
In a shallow dish, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge both sides of each breast through the seasoned flour.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil and butter. Add the chicken breasts and cook until they are well browned on both sides and no longer pink at the center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer them to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the shallots and sugar to the skillet and cook, stirring, until they begin to color, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, currants and thyme, then stir and scrape the bottom of the skillet.
In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar and cornstarch. Stir the mixture into the skillet and bring to a simmer. Let cook until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve the chicken breasts topped with the sauce.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 292 calories; 75 calories from fat; 8 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 90 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 35 g protein; 1 g fiber; 420 mg sodium.