I don’t cook with chicken very often – for whatever reason, I always associate it with bland, “eat it only for my health” meals. In fact, when I find a chicken recipe that looks good, I typically substitute pork tenderloin.
That said, I was out at one of my favorite local restaurants a couple of weeks ago (Tierra – a fabulous South American restaurant where I’ve never had anything but a great meal) and a friend ordered their roasted chicken breast. I tried a bite, and it was so moist and tender I had to re-think my ideas about chicken. Maybe I had just hadn’t cooked it right all this time. One big difference: I usually start with skinless, boneless chicken breasts – but their’s was cooked on the bone. And (since I use boneless) I tend to cook mine on the stove rather than roasting it in the oven. I did a little research, and decided to give it a try.
The consensus is that the best way to cook a skin-on chicken breast is to start it in a skillet to brown the skin, then move it to a really hot oven (450-degrees was the most common temperature I found) to finish baking. It’s also important to have an instant-read thermometer (I just invested in a nice one) so that you can tell whether your chicken is done without cutting into it and losing the wonderful juices.
Since I was using my oven on high heat anyway, I decided to make a roasted tomatillo and poblano pepper sauce to go with the chicken. To finish the meal, I cooked up some swiss chard (my first time doing that, but it was in my veggie box this week) and plantains to go with the chicken. It was a delicious, satisfying meal.
It seems like it might have been a lot of work, but I was able to do a lot of it at the same time (for example, making the sauce and chard while the chicken baked). I’ll describe the prep for each part separately (sauce, chicken, and chard) then give tips on preparing it all at once.
To start, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.
Place on a rimmed cookie sheet (lined with foil to make clean-up easier):
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1.5 pounds tomatillos, husks removed and scrubbed
Place in the oven, rotating occasionally, for about 15-2o minutes until they are starting to get soft and charred. Remove from the oven, placing the tomatillos in a large sauce-pan. If desired, peel the skin off of the poblano (this isn’t necessary). Carefully slice down one side of the poblano, then remove the stem and most of the seeds. Place the poblano with the tomatillos in the sauce pan.
Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the tomatillos and poblano. If you don’t have one, you can use a blender or food processor, then put them in the sauce pan. Heat this mixture over medium heat, then add:
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered)
- 1 tsp. salt
- juice of one lime
Simmer until the flavors have had a chance to combine nicely – about 15 minutes. Keep warm.
Rinse and dry well:
- 4 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts (the sauce is enough for at least 4 split breasts, probably more if you don’t want to use a lot of sauce)
Rub the meat and skin side of each breast with:
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- pepper (freshly-ground is best)
Heat a dry skillet (not a non-stick skillet) over high heat – it’s hot enough when you can only hold your hand over the skillet for a second or two. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and place the chicken breasts into the skillet, skin and meat side down. Leave the chicken in the pan without touching or moving them for about 5 minutes. Resist the temptation to check on them if you can – this time will allow the skin to sear and brown nicely. If you try to check them too soon, they will stick to the pan and tear.
After about 5 minutes they should be really nicely browned and crisp. Carefully remove each breast from the pan and place (bone-side down) in a baking dish, then place in the 450-degree oven. If you have a heat-resistant pan you can move it directly to the oven. I decided to use the nice chicken drippings to cook swiss chard in the pan, and so I preferred to move my chicken to a baking dish.
Bake for about 30-45 minutes until an instant-read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast registers 160-165 degrees. Remove from the oven, cover pan with foil, and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
I received two kinds of Swiss Chard in my veggie box this week – Bright Lights and Green. I decided to cook them up in the pan I used to sear my chicken. If you ‘re making this separately, you could just add a little chicken broth, salt, and pepper but I think you’ll be missing some great flavor! To prepare the chard, rinse it well and then cut the stem from the leaves. Cut the stem in about 1-inch pieces (you can make the thicker stems smaller than this), and slice the leaves in about one or two inch slices. (It’s quick to do this by stacking a bunch of leaves, then rolling them into a cylinder, then slicing them all together). Store the stems and leaves separately since they will take different amounts of time to cook.
Return the skillet you used to cook your chicken to medium heat, then add:
- 1/2 cup white wine (I used sauvignon blanc, since it’s what I drink)
Bring to a boil and using a wooden spoon scrape up all of the browned-on bits from the bottom of the pan. Once you’ve deglazed the pan add the chopped stems. Cook until the stems are getting tender – about 5 minutes. Then add the leaves. You may have to add them in batches, adding more as they wilt depending on how much you use. Keep an eye on the pan to be sure that it doesn’t fully dry out. If so, add a bit more wine. Once all of the leaves are soft and wilted, remove from heat and serve.
Putting It All Together
I know I’ve said before that I’m pretty slow in the kitchen, but I found the timing of this meal pretty easy. Basically, I did the following:
Put the tomatillos and poblanos in to roast. While they were roasting, I prepared the Swiss Chard (cleaning and cutting), prepared the chicken breast, and browned the chicken.
By the time the chicken was browned, the tomatillos were out of the oven and I put the chicken in to roast. I put together the rest of the tomatillo sauce, started it simmering then started on the swiss chard. It was done about the time the chicken came out of the oven. In the end, I got ambitious and also sauteed some ripe plantains in butter in a non-stick skillet and served them with everything. Very easy.