Pan Seared Chicken Breasts with Sherry Thyme Pan Sauce

Making a simple pan sauce not only provides you with a delicious finish to your chicken breasts, but also helps to clean the pan you cooked in as well. This cream sauce is luscious and will make you feel like a top chef.

Now Let’s Get Cooking
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The basics of a good pan sauce is to gather all the flavors left in the bottom of a skillet used for sautéing a piece of chicken, steak, pork or fish by deglazing with an acidic ingredient or liquid and simmering for just a few minutes until you have a sauce-like consistency. It really couldn’t be easier and it is likely that you have all the ingredients you need for a good pan sauce in your kitchen already. The key to a good pan sauce is to balance the acidic ingredient with a little fat. In this recipe, sherry is the acidic liquid that you use to deglaze the skillet and cream is the ingredient that will balance out the acid. A little minced shallot, fresh thyme and good-quality chicken stock add additional flavor.

Ingredients on a cutting board - chicken breasts, chicken stock, sherry, cream, thyme, shallots, salt and pepper.

The first step of pan-searing the chicken is an important one. Make sure you do not over-crowd the pan. Over-crowding might seem like a short-cut, but it never turns out that way. If you have too many chicken breasts in the pan and not enough surface area around each one, moisture from the chicken breast will accumulate in the bottom of the pan and that moisture will inhibit browning. You’ll end up leaving the chicken in the pan for longer in the attempt to get some color on the chicken breasts and will spend more time sautéing than you’d planned, possibly overcooking the chicken. In addition, if moisture does accumulate in the pan, you won’t have any of the delicious brown bits left in the bottom of the pan which forms the basis for the flavor of your pan sauce. Bottom line: don’t over-crowd the pan. If you don’t have a pan big enough for all the chicken you are cooking, sauté the chicken in batches.

Chicken breasts seared in a sauce pan.

Set the chicken aside on a plate and hold it warm in a 170ºF oven while you make the pan sauce, which will only take a few minutes. Add the shallot and thyme to the pan and let the the shallot pull up some of the brown on the bottom surface. Minced shallot cooks very quickly, so this should only take a minute or two. Then, deglaze with the sherry. If you don’t have sherry (or if you want to vary the recipe), you can use wine (white or red), vermouth (sweet or dry), marsala, madeira or any other fortified wine. If you don’t want to use alcohol to deglaze the pan, you could substitute a fruit juice (apple, orange). Of course, the flavor will change as you make a substitution, but that might be exactly what you’re going for.

Pan Seared chicken breasts in sherry cream pan sauce in a sauce pan with a serving spoon.

The chicken stock and cream will balance out the sauce nicely and will just need a couple of minutes to simmer and reduce to a sauce consistency. The best way to test for that consistency is to dip a spoon into the sauce and then drag your finger down the back of the spoon. If the sauce coats the back of the spoon and you can see the line that you drew on the spoon’s surface, it is the right consistency to coat the chicken breasts. All you have left to do is to put everything on the plate and pour the sauce on top. Voilà!

A chicken breast with sherry cream pan sauce, rice and asparagus on a white plate.

 

Pan Seared Chicken Breast with Sherry Thyme Pan Sauce

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 25 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • 4 5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cups dry sherry
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170ºF.
  2. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Heat a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and butter and place the chicken in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and brown the chicken well on both sides – about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Be patient and do not flip the chicken until it releases easily from pan. Transfer the browned chicken to a platter, loosely tent with foil and place it in a 170°F oven to keep warm.

  4. Add the minced shallot and thyme sprigs to the pan and sauté until lightly browned. Add the sherry to the skillet and deglaze the pan by scraping up any brown bits on the bottom as you bring the liquid to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce the sherry by half and then stir in the chicken stock and heavy cream. Simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove the sprigs of thyme and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Return the chicken to the skillet, along with any juices on the plate. Simmer for just a few more minutes.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a plate or platter, spoon sauce over top and garnish with fresh thyme leaves.
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Comments (6)Post a Reply

  1. When I attempted to print the recipe for the Chicken Breast with Sherry, Thyme Pan Sauce and did a print preview first all I got was a lot of repeated information and nothing of the recipe. So how do I get the recipe?

    1. Hi Sharon. If you click on the button that says “Print Recipe” (just above and to the right of the recipe card) you should get a new window with just the recipe that you can print.

  2. I love your recipes could you put substitutions Such as herbs
    Sometimes fresh herbs aren’t possible
    That would be helpful
    Thank you


  3. Sharon,
    I had the same problem. On the recipe itself, in the upper right hand corner you should see three dots. Click on that and click on “open in safari “. From there you will be able to print the recipe. Good luck👍🏻

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