I roasted my first chicken in 1984 in my first apartment's kitchen using a method I read about in the Boston Globe's food section: no trussing, high oven heat, a 90-minute roast, and oodles of fresh tarragon butter massaged under the skin of the bird. This roast was for a weekend dinner for friends, and the method produced the crispiest, tastiest herb-infused bird I had ever eaten.
The beauty of roast chicken is that it is an easy, homey meal, one that always tastes good. There are about a million variations on the basic method. Play around with different herbs, different vegetables, or add citrus to the roasting pan as you like, but whatever flavors you choose, you will still end up with a good tasting bird. One thing can't be changed, though. A roast chicken will always require at least 90 minutes in the oven, an amount of time not always available midweek.
Pan roasting on top of the range is a great way to get roast chicken taste in much less time. Start to finish, this Chicken with Fig Vinegar and Tarragon only needs about 30 minutes, making it the perfect roast chicken for a weeknight. If you like, you may experiment with different flavored vinegars and different herbs.
Chicken with Fig Vinegar and Tarragon
2 tablespoons butter
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup fig-infused vinegar (available at most grocery stores)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
11/2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
1. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet set over medium high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts.
2. Turn the heat to medium high and add the chicken breasts to the skillet skin side down and saute about 4 minutes on the first side, or until browned. Turn and saute on the second side for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until browned. Transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside. Tent loosely with foil.
3. Add the finely chopped shallots to the skillet and sauté©, stirring, until softened. Add the vinegar and tarragon to the pan and bring it to a boil. Cook steadily over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar is reduced to a thick, syrupy glaze.
4. Add the broth to the pan. Return the chicken to pan skin side up. Reduce the heat and cover the pan. Maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the chicken breasts. A meat thermometer inserted in the fattest part of the breast should register 170 degrees when done.
5. Transfer the chicken to a clean platter and cover the platter loosely with foil. Turn the heat under the pan to medium high and boil sauce to reduce it by two-thirds. When thickened, season the sauce with salt and pepper. Plate the chicken breasts to serve, spooning a generous amount of the pan sauce over both.
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Recipe courtesy of Jane Ward, author and blogger of "Food & Fiction," 2012.