Serves 4
5 minutes prep, 15 minutes cooking, 20 minutes total
The way America is eating chicken breasts, the day of the "Franken-chicken," one big breast staggering around on toothpick legs, cannot be far off. 

Truth be told, chicken breast is often the most neutral of neutrals. It carries flavors with little contribution of its own. Some of us feel this is an opportunity, not a liability.

This recipe addresses the flavor issue head-on. Sauté the breast fast, and let the pan juices do the heavy lifting. Boiling pan juices down in vinegar with garlic is an infallible flavoring technique. Gild the lily with almonds. 

Cook to Cook: This recipe is a good place to audition different vinegars -- nutlike Spanish sherry vinegar; inky, sweet and smoky Chinese black vinegar (look for Chinkiang or Shanxi on the label); the Philippines' brisk palm vinegar; England's mellow malt vinegar; and of course, the ubiquitous balsamic. 

Serve immediately, and reheats well. 

  • 1-1/2 cups good tasting chicken broth 
  • Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts (organic if possible)
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 6 large garlic cloves, thin sliced
  • 1 cup cider vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon whole salted almonds, coarse chopped
1. In a 10-inch sauté pan (preferably not nonstick) boil down the broth until it is reduced by about 2/3. Pour it into a container and set aside. Rinse and dry the skillet.

2. Lightly film the pan with oil. Heat it over high heat. Slip the chicken breasts into the pan, sprinkling them with salt and pepper. Lightly brown them on both sides. Lower the heat to medium low, and cook uncovered, 4 minutes per side, or until they are firm but not springy when pressed. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and keep it warm.

3. Make the pan sauce by adding the garlic and vinegar to the pan. Boil, scraping up the brown bits in the pan, until the vinegar is boiled down to 1/4 of its original quantity. Stir in the reserved broth and boil for 2 minutes, or until the sauce is rich tasting (it need not be thick). Adjust the salt and pepper. Stir in the butter until it's barely melted, and immediately pour the sauce over the chicken, topping it with the almonds.

Variation: Lean Chicken Piccata with Yellow Pepper and Onion

Follow the recipe to the point where the chicken is browned. As you turn the heat down to medium low add 1 thin-sliced medium onion and 1 thin-sliced yellow pepper to the pan to the pan.

Replace the vinegar with 1 cup white wine, and finish the recipe as written. Instead of almonds, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the meat.

From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter, 2008.