...And by BS, of course, I mean boneless skinless. I've often talked trash about chicken breasts, because they're usually the crappiest thing anyone serves. I've had rubbery chicken breasts, spongey chicken breasts, stringy chicken breasts, and -- of course -- completely bland chicken breasts. Even (or perhaps especially) when cooked with the rest of the chicken, the situation isn't much better, because by the time the fattier dark meat is perfectly cooked, the breasts are sadly dessicated and lifeless.
They are healthy, though, and I have had a few decent bits of white meat in my day, so I decided to try my hand at making a chicken breast that not only doesn't suck, but is actually pretty tasty. I first wanted this chicken for use in Caesar salad, but it's also good on it's own with a little pan sauce (like the one in this recipe, though I think chicken is even better with thyme).
Chicken usually benefits from a brine, but I wanted to make this as streamlined of a process as possible, so I skipped the brining and just seasoned the breasts judiciously. It's not really necessary, because at least part of any piece of the meat you eat will have been hit directly with the seasonings -- unlike a whole chicken, which needs a brine for seasoning to penetrate beyond the very outer layer. I seasoned both the breasts themselves, and the light flour coating I dusted them in. I think the flour really helps to get good caramelization and texture on the outside of the breast.
Aside from proper seasoning, the most important element in making a good piece of meat is hitting the right temperature. You don't want to undercook chicken for health reasons, but you don't want to overcook it because it will taste like cardboard. If you don't already own one, buy a probe thermometer right this very second. You can buy one for less than $18 on Amazon here. I've used mine (well, not this specific one -- we just got this one a couple weeks ago after I accidentally melted the old one to death) for cooking meats, making caramels, even for cheesecake. You can set a little timer to go off when whatever you're making hits the correct temperature -- how cool is that? And since the probe is attatched to a long metal cord, you don't have to keep opening and closing the oven door to check on things.
Because I'm lazy, I didn't want to use more than one pan to make some stupid little chicken breasts, so I do the whole thing in a cast iron pan, which is oven-safe and very easy to clean once it cools down. It also is great because you can get a nice little bit of that brown stuff on the bottom of the pan called fond, which is great to have if you want to build a little pan sauce while your chicken rests. See that golden brown stuff on the bottom of the pan in the photo? That's fond. It's delicious.
Speaking of resting your chicken, rest it. Chicken breasts only need about 5 minutes or so -- if you're going to be eating them right away, put a little tent of foil over the top to keep them warm -- but definitely give them that time to let the juices redistribute back into the meat, and also to let the meat coast up to the perfect temperature. Otherwise you'll cut into the chicken, the juices will all run out of the meat, and you will cry tears of shame for not remembering to rest your chicken properly.
Want to make some boneless skinless chicken breasts that are really quick and actually taste pretty good? Here's the recipe.