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Cast Iron Oven-Seared Chicken Breasts with Leek and Tarragon Pan Sauce

Why This Recipe Works

Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts are more flavorful than boneless, skinless breasts, but getting the skin to crisp without overcooking the delicate meat can be a challenge. We developed a streamlined method that starts by preheating a cast-iron skillet in a very hot oven, then dropping the oven temperature and adding the chicken to both sear the skin and roast the breasts at the same time. The trick was to start the breasts skin side down. This allowed the heat of the skillet and the heat from the oven to crisp the skin while the weight of the breast pressed down on it. The result was ultracrisp skin on a perfectly moist chicken breast. While the chicken rested, we made a quick pan sauce that captured all the tasty browned bits the meat left behind. We started by sweating a leek, then added some flour to help thicken the sauce. Next we poured in savory chicken broth and flavorful vermouth, which we then reduced for a thicker consistency. Fresh tarragon, whole-grain mustard, and a little butter gave our sauce a distinctive flavor identity and richness.

4 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, chopped fine, and washed thoroughly
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
Nutritional Information

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Instructions

Serves 4

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, place 12-inch cast-iron skillet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Meanwhile, pat chicken dry with paper towels, rub with oil, and season with salt and pepper.

2. When oven reaches 500 degrees, place chicken skin side down in hot skillet. Reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees and roast until chicken is well browned and registers 160 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through roasting.

3. Using potholders, remove skillet from oven. Transfer chicken to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest while making sauce.

4. Being careful of hot skillet handle, pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Add leek, cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth and vermouth, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps. Bring to simmer and cook until sauce is thickened and reduced to about 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Stir in any accumulated chicken juices. Off heat, whisk in butter, tarragon, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.