I love getting gussied up and going out for a nice dinner with my husband. Lately, it has not been as easy for us to do this. We have scheduling conflicts, babysitter expenses, and our son's extracurricular activities that seem to take up a TON of time during the weekend. So, we have been doing "at home" date night and I think it is just as fun as going out! I cook dinner, we pour ourselves a glass of wine, and we take time out of our busy schedule to catch up and laugh. During our most recent at home date night, I made a baked chicken breast recipe with a rich and velvety pan gravy. I had to share it on my blog because it tastes like it came out of a restaurant kitchen but it is incredibly easy to make at home.
What Makes This Chicken Breast Recipe So Special?
First and foremost, this chicken breast recipe is super easy to prepare! You begin by pounding, drying and seasoning chicken breasts. You brown them in butter and olive oil in (preferably) a cast iron skillet. Then, you bake the chicken breasts on a sheet pan in the oven. While the chicken breasts bake, you make the pan gravy in the same cast iron skillet in which you browned the chicken (Yay, fewer dishes to wash!).
The chicken is tender and juicy but it also has a delightfully crisp crust. Because you brown the chicken in the skillet and then use it to make the pan gravy, you continue to build flavor as you make the sauce. The brown bits (or, "fond," if you want to impress your partner with the professional term), create a depth of flavor that is unparalleled. I love to use white wine to deglaze the pan. When you deglaze, you are adding liquid to a hot pan and scraping the fond from the bottom of the pan, so the brown bits can easily incorporate into your sauce or gravy. After deglazing, the sauce takes on a life of its own with chicken broth, herbs, and a splash of heavy cream at the end.
The gravy is smooth and creamy. It has a bite from shallots and garlic and a surprising pop of acidity from the white wine vinegar. When you drizzle the sauce over your baked chicken breast, your taste buds will thank you! You know, we call them taste "buds" for a reason! 🙂
Pan Gravy 101: How To Enhance Your Chicken Breast Recipe
A delicious pan gravy is essential when making a restaurant quality chicken breast recipe. First of all, let's discuss the difference between a gravy and a sauce.
A gravy is made using meat drippings or fond created by browning meat that is deglazed. Gravy often features some type of broth and is usually thickened with flour or cornstarch.
A sauce does not require meat. Think about a marinara sauce or an alfredo sauce. Neither of these sauces is traditionally made using meat drippings or fond.
There is a lot of discussion on this topic online. Believe it or not, it is a pretty controversial topic in the food world. For today, though, let's just keep it simple: gravy = meat; sauce = no meat.
Common Mistakes When Making Gravy
Gravy is one of the most feared sauces in home cook history. I'm here to tell you: it is so easy! Once you learn the basic fundamentals of gravy making, there will be no stopping you.
Mistake # 1: The Gravy Is Bland.
I think a huge mistake home cooks often make is not seasoning their food. Cardinal rule number one: use salt and pepper to season just about everything.
In order to build a more complex flavor, try adding a pinch of salt and pepper at various stages throughout the cooking process. This builds flavor and is one of the most important keys to creating restaurant quality food in your own kitchen. It tastes a lot better than tossing salt and pepper on the food at the end.
In addition to not seasoning with salt and pepper, home cooks make the mistake of not considering the flavor profile of their food. If you want to take your chicken breast recipe to the next level, think of how you can incorporate more flavors and textures into your meal.
The same is true with gravy. In addition to the savory (chicken), salty (salt), and spicy (pepper), this gravy recipe contains sweetness (shallots), acidity (white wine and white wine vinegar), and herbaciousness (thyme, rosemary, parsley). In my dishes, I always try to hit several flavor profiles. This creates a multi-dimensional experience for my diners.
Mistake # 2: The Gravy Is Lumpy.
I think the biggest fear in anyone's mind when making gravy is lumps. "How do I make a gravy that isn't lumpy?" Lumpy gravy is caused by adding flour to the pan too quickly and in one large heap. The flour sticks together in chunks and you are left with a big, lumpy mess.
I learned this trick a long time ago from Epicurious. Pass your flour through a fine mesh strainer, a little at a time, when adding it to the pan. Whisk constantly. The gradual incorporation of flour into the pan and subsequent whisking will prevent any lumps from forming. What a tip!
What happens if my gravy is lumpy? Do NOT throw it away! During a culinary disaster, straining the gravy through a fine mesh strainer will remove any lumps. It will also remove the shallots and garlic, so it isn't ideal. However, it will fix your problem in a pinch.
Mistake # 3: The Gravy Is Made In A Different Pan Than The Chicken
As discussed, the brown bits ("fond") that are at the bottom of the skillet, are the key to a flavorful gravy. Using a different pan to create your gravy is okay, but it will not result in a restaurant quality depth of flavor.
Mistake # 4: The Fond Is Burnt
The only time it is acceptable to make a gravy in a different pan is if the fond burns. I'm not talking about deliciously browned goodness. I'm talking about smoking, black tar.
This has happened to me once in the past (nobody's perfect!). I browned my chicken breasts and while I was placing them in the oven, I accidentally left the fond on a hot burner. A minute later, my smoke alarm went off and my beautiful browned bits became charcoal.
When this happens, please do not make a gravy in the same pan! It will not turn out. It would be much better to start in a different pan. You will still get flavor, it just might not be as complex.
Let Me Know What You Think!
I love hearing from my readers! If you try this recipe, let me know what your thoughts are. My favorite part of food blogging is the feeling I have when talking with other foodies about our favorite thing on the planet: delicious food. Enjoy!
Please note, this post contains affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission on the sale of these items at no cost to you.
All of my posts contain my recommendations for essential tools. I have researched these tools. Many of them are already in my kitchen. The ones that are not come highly rated. I do the research so you don’t have to and I only recommend high-quality tools.
If you are just starting to furnish your kitchen with tools or if you are looking to expand your kitchen toolkit, be sure to reference Expert Guide: Equip Your Kitchen for Less Than $200. This guide contains links to all of the equipment items I recommend for a basic kitchen set up.
My essential tools when making this chicken breast recipe include the following:
Stunning Restaurant Quality Chicken Breast Recipe With Homemade Pan Gravy
For The Chicken
- 4 chicken breasts boneless, skinless
- 4 tbsp. chicken seasoning blend of your choice I love Montreal Chicken Seasoning or an Italian Blend
- 2 tbsp. butter unsalted
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
For The Gravy
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. butter unsalted
- 2 shallots minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 heaping tbsp. all purpose flour
- 1 cup white wine your choice!
- 2 cups chicken broth low sodium preferred
- 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. fresh or dried thyme chopped
- 1 tbsp. fresh or dried rosemary chopped
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp. fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tsp. salt plus more, to taste
- ½ tsp. pepper plus more, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat.
Prepare The Chicken Breasts
- Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and gently pound each breast with a rolling pin until they reach a uniformed thickness. This will allow them to cook more evenly.
- Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. This will allow them to brown faster, which will result in a juicier chicken breast.
- Season chicken breasts on both sides with your chosen chicken seasoning (I use about 1 tablespoon per chicken breast). Most seasoning blends contain salt and pepper, so no need to season additionally with salt and pepper.
Brown The Chicken
- Heat butter and olive oil in the skillet. Add chicken breasts once butter is melted.
- Cook chicken breasts on medium high heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, until chicken becomes golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet and place onto a sheet pan. (IMPORTANT: The chicken is not cooked through at this point. Always finish cooking chicken in the oven right after you brown the chicken.)
- Place chicken breasts in oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Rest chicken breasts before serving, about 10 minutes.
Make The Gravy
- While the chicken is in the oven, prepare your gravy.
- In the same cast iron skillet in which the chicken breasts were browned, drain any residual liquid/fat (leaving the brown bits in the bottom of the pan).
- Place the skillet back on the stove on medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. When butter is melted, add shallots to the pan.
- Cook the shallots until they begin to soften and become translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- For lump-free gravy, follow this very important step: Pass flour through a fine mesh strainer, and whisk in, a little at a time. Set stove to medium high heat and continue to whisk until flour is cooked, about 1-2 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with white wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet.
- Add chicken broth, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce to medium low heat. Add thyme and rosemary and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn heat off and stir in heavy cream and parsley. Add salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon over chicken breasts and serve.