Chicken With Pan Sauce and Wilted Spinach

Seared chicken breasts or thighs turn into an elegant meal thanks to a simple pan sauce. This recipe is all about the technique of building a sauce out of the fond, or bits of browned fat and protein that stick to the bottom of the pan after caramelizing food over high heat. Here, skin-on chicken pieces are seared and cooked through in a hot skillet. They’re then removed, and white wine is added, followed by stock and butter. Simmered and reduced, this mixture combines with the fond to produce a flavorful sauce. It’s endlessly variable: Substitute almost any well-seasoned protein or vegetable, and play around with different liquids: vinegar, brine, water, bean broth, soy sauce and other savory liquids, in the right proportions, will all make delicious sauces.

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Total time: 20 mins

Storage Notes: Leftovers may be refrigerated for up to 4 days.



Tested size: 2 servings

  • 2 (5-ounce) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or split breasts, patted dry

  • Fine salt

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

  • 5 ounces (about 5 cups) baby spinach


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 200 degrees.

Season the chicken generously on both sides with salt. (If you have time, season them up to 1 hour before cooking — or the night before, and refrigerate until ready to cook.)

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it just begins to smoke. Pat the chicken dry and gently lower each piece into the pan, skin side down, dropping it away from you so hot oil does not toward you.

Cook the chicken until the skin is deeply golden brown, about 5 minutes, then flip and add the thyme to the pan. (If the skin sticks, the chicken isn’t ready to flip; give it another 1 to 2 minutes and it will loosen on its own.)

Continue cooking until the chicken is firm and barely pink in the center, about 4 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 140 degrees. Transfer the chicken to an oven-safe pan, season with pepper and let it rest in the warm oven while you make the sauce.

Add the wine to the pan, and using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to high and boil the wine until it has almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth and boil until it has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the butter, letting it gently melt into the sauce. The sauce is ready when it has thickened; it should coat the back of a spoon, and when you trace a trail with your fingertip across the back, the trail should hold its shape without dripping. Decrease the heat to medium, and pour the sauce into a small bowl and keep warm.

In the same skillet, wilt the spinach. Season it with a pinch of salt, and stir until it releases its moisture and turns silky and soft, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer the chicken, which should now have an internal temp of 165 degrees, to individual plates, and add a spoonful of spinach to each plate. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve.

Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted a placing the chicken in an oven to continue cooking. The recipe has been updated.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “Food IQ” by Daniel Holzman and Matt Rodbard (Harper Wave, 2022).

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza.

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