|One of my NYT favorite food writers, Melissa Clark’s standby quick dinner favorites is pan-seared chicken with lemon and garlic. She also suggests that an easy way to add additional layers of flavor is to add capers and anchovies. These two brilliant additions turn a timid main course into a vibrant, savory and impossible-to-stop eating entrée, with a sauce that is perfect for mopping up with crusty bread.
Ingredients for four servings
4 or 5 boneless,skinless whole chicken breasts
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 oil-packed anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons capers, drained and patted dry
Large pinch of red chile flakes
1 large lemon, halved
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Crusty bread, for serving.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Season chicken with salt and pepper, finely mince one of the garlic cloves and set aside for later.
Heat a 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium and add the 5 minced garlic cloves and chile flakes. Cook stirring with a wooden spoon to smash the anchovies until the garlic browns around the edges and the anchovies dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the chicken and cook until nicely browned on one side, about five minutes, flip the chicken over, transfer the skillet to the preheated oven until the chicken is cooked through, no more than 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
When the chicken is done, transfer to a plate (please don’t overcook or the boneless, skinless chicken breasts will be dry).
Carefully place the very hot skillet over medium-low heat and add the reserved minced garlic, the capers and the juice of one of the lemon halves. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Return the chicken to the skillet and warm in the sauce for 20 or 30 seconds.
Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the chicken and garnish with finely chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the delicious pan bits and sauce.
These chicken breasts are also great for next day lunch sliced thin and served over mixed greens dressed with a smidge of fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
Ellen Troyer with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff
Science-based nutrition information: For those of you who think you don’t care for anchovies because of a bad experience with inferior quality anchovies on pizza, this recipe will hopefully change your mind. If excessive salt is your concern, rinse them in cold water and pat dry before adding to sauce bases.
Anchovies have been praised for centuries because they are a powerful, potent ingredient, providing an umami quality to recipes by adding depth and complexity (think layers of flavors). Anchovies are the secret ingredient in many steak sauces and beloved Italian pasta dishes and fish stews.
Umami: a loan word from the Japanese, was the fifth basic taste and receptor identified by scientist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908, long after the sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness taste receptors were identified. The umami translation is “pleasant savory quality.”
We taste umami through receptors specific to the neurotransmitter glutamate, a chemical that nerve cells use to send signals to other cells and accounts for more than 90 percent of the synaptic connections in the human brain. The umami effect balances taste and rounds out the overall flavor of a dish.
Anchovies are also nutritional powerhouses loaded with essential nutrients. The proteins in anchovies have long been known to benefit the structure and function of cell metabolism and connective tissue repair and regrowth. They also include omega-3-fatty acids, vitamin A, the full spectrum of B vitamins and vitamins C, E and K. The minerals available in anchovies include zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
So do yourself a favor and give anchovies another chance.
My go-to brand of canned anchovies for sauces is Crown Prince but, for special occasions like Mother’s Day, I will treat myself and my friends whose children are also out of state to Carmen & Lola White Anchovies Boquerones in Vinegar and Oil.
They are a special staple in my freezer; certainly more expensive, not at all salty, and many of my friends favorite snack served with a sourdough baguette and glass of wine after a particularly long hike in the mountains, which mothers and others without mothers and grown and flown children around are prone to do on Mother’s Day.
If Carmen & Lola anchovies are not available in the frozen food section of your local supermarket, they can be purchased from Amazon since they deliver them in special packaging dry ice.