Sautéing 101: Chicken Sauté with Onions, Garlic & Basil

Class is back in session this week and before I do a recap, I'll be sharing the recipes I got to make in class. We're starting a new section in our books that's much more in depth and allows us to learn more techniques. To further our understanding, we're making three poultry dishes. The first dish we made is this one for Chicken Sauté with Onions, Garlic & Basil. This specific recipe introduces the technique of sautéing and preparing a sauce in the sauté pan...

Here are some class notes on sautéing:

Sautéed poultry should be tender and juicy, if it's flavor is developed by proper browning. Additional flavors come from a sauce made by deglazing the pan, usually with wine, and adding garnishes, seasonings, and lquids. Stir-frying is a popular method of sautéing poultry where boneless pieces are cut into strips and quickly cooked with assorted vegetables and seasonings.

Selecting Poultry to be Sautéed
Most poultry is tender and works well to sauté. Although small birds such as squab can be sautéed bone-in, large pieces and bone in cuts from larger birds should not be sauteéd. Boneless breasts, suprêmes, scallops and cutlets are the most common and practical cuts for sautéing. Because they are high in fat, boneless duck breasts can be sautéed without additional fat.

Determining Doneness
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what the doneness of an item is if you have only the temperature of the sauté pan and the color of the item being cooked. A more practical method is to press the item with your finger and judge the resistance. Very undercookds poultry will offer little resistance and feel mushy. Slighly underdone poultry will feel spoungy and will not spring back when your finger is removed. Properly cooked poultry will feel firm to the touch and will spring back when your finger is removed. Overcooked poultry will feel very firm, almost hard, and will spring back quickly when your finger is removed.

Accompaniments to Sautéed Poultry
Sautéed poultry is usually served with a sauce made directly in the pan in which the item was cooked. The sauce uses the fond for added flavor. A wide variety of ingredients, including garlic, onions, shallotw, mushrooms and tomatoes are commonly added to the pan as well as wine and stock. Sautéed items are often served with a starch such as pasta, rice or potatoes.

Procedure for sautéing poultry
  1. Heat the sauté pan and add enough fat or oil to just cover the bottom.
  2. Add the poultry item, presentation side down, and cook until browned.
  3. Turn the item, using tongs or by tossing te item back on itself using the pan's sloped sides.
  4. Large r items can be finished in an oven. Either place the sauté pan in the oven or transfer the poultry to another pan. The latter procedure allows a sauce to be made in the original pan while the poultry cooks in the oven. Hold smaller pieces that are thoroughly cooked in a warm place so that the pan can be used for making the sauce.
Procedure for preparing a sauce in a sauté pan
  1. Pour off any excess fat or oil from the sauté pan, leaving enough to sauté the sauce ingredients.
  2. Add ingredients such as garlic, shallots and mushrooms that will be used as garnishes and sauce flavorings; sauté them.
  3. Deglaze the pan with wine, stock or other liquids. Scrape the pan, loosening the fond (cooked bits leftover) and allowing it to dissolve in the liquid. Reduce the liquid.
  4. Add any ingredients that do not require long cooking times such as herbs and spices. Adjust the sauce's consistency and seasonings.
  5. Before serving, the poultry can be returned to the pan for a moment to reheat it and to coat it with the sauce. The poultry should remain in the sauce just long enough to reheat. Do not attempt to cook the poultry in the sauce.
  6. Serve the poultry with the accompanying sauce.

Chicken Sauté with Onions, Garlic & Basil

3 whole chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, approximately 10 oz each
salt & pepper to taste
flour, as needed for dredging
2 tablespoons clarified butter (or olive oil)
1 small onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup tomato concassée
1/2 cup chicken stock
6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Mise en place

Trim any excess fat from the breasts. Split each breast into two pieces by removing the small piece of cartilage that joins the halves. Season the chicken with salt and pepper; dredge in flour.

Add the butter to the pan just until hot., then sauté the breasts in the butter, browning them slightly. Once lightly browned and almost fully cooked, place in a warm oven and hold.

Left in the pan is fond. Add the onion and garlic to the fond and butter in the pan.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine and lemon juice. Add the tomato concassée and stock. Sauté to combine the flavors; reduce the sauce to the desired consistency.

Return the chicken breasts for reheating. Adjust the seasonings and serve one half breast per portion with a portion of the sauce.Garnish with basil.


  1. OMG, this looks so good. My mouth is totally watering!!!!! Have fun in class, enjoy it! You're so lucky!

    Jaime and Jen Dish

  2. Holy cow! I never suspected real sauteing was so detailed! I always just sort of... well... threw the chicken in the butter and fried until done. Perhaps with a sprinkling of pepper, salt, dried basil and dried garlic along the way.

    I'll have to try this the real way. And wow, that sauce sounds positively delicious! You're making me hungry again, Joelen. You're really good at doing that.