The key to making moist, tender, juicy chicken breasts is an instant read meat thermometer. If you undercook chicken breasts you get sick; overcook them and they are dry (and boring). Cook them just right, Goldilocks, and your reward is a delicious dinner.
Not sure how to use a meat thermometer? Here is a detailed, photographic step-by-step. (Scroll down the page a little to skip over the first part about pounding boneless breasts.) The only difference between a bone-in and boneless chicken breast when taking the temperature is that with bone-in, you have to be sure the thermometer does not come in contact with the bone. (Contact with the bone will give you an inaccurate reading.) Your thermometer should be inserted at least one inch in to the meat, with the point in the middle of the thickest part. (Here are step-by-step photos and instruction of taking the temperature of a bone-in chicken thigh, which also might be useful.) I use these instant read meat thermometers both at home and when I teach: I check them now and then by placing the tip in boiling water– it should quickly register 212 degrees.
The recipe below is an interpretation of the classic Italian dish, Chicken Agrodolce. It is sweet (thanks to raisins and a touch of sugar) and sour (balsamic vinegar): rosemary and fennel (two of my favorite ingredients) add depth and interest. This is a very simple dish to put together on a busy weeknight– but the intriguing layers of flavors make it an equally good choice to serve at gatherings.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups chopped red onion
1 cup chopped fennel
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic, divided
3/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish
1 teaspoon salt, divided
5 pounds bone-in chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium high. Add yellow and red onion and cook 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes until the onion is very soft. Add 1/2 cup of the balsamic, red wine, sugar, raisins, chopped rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and boil 10 minutes until most of the liquid is evaporated.
2. Cut the breasts in half across (through the bone); place on the baking sheet. Combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, remaining 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and honey; brush over the chicken. Bake, basting occasionally, 20 minutes. Add the onion mixture to the pan, and cook until the largest piece of chicken reaches 160 degrees, about another 20-25 minutes.
3. Serve the chicken over the onion mixture; garnish with sprigs of rosemary.
Makes 8 servings
Nutrition for each serving: 443 calories, 50 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 13 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 412 mg sodium