Food & dining

The confident cook

Recipe: Dinner-in-a-skillet combines boneless chicken breasts, apple slices, and sauteed onions

Sheryl Julian for The Boston Globe

You need a 30-minute one-pan dinner for every season. This is my apple-season dinner in a skillet: Saute boneless chicken breasts and nestle them in apple slices and sauteed onions in a simple sauce. Tuck fresh herbs and a little lemon into the skillet and finish in the oven. Baking apples (Cortland, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Rome Beauty, Baldwin) will hold their shape in the pan, but use any variety you happen to have; it really doesn’t matter here. I don’t typically buy skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I prefer meat on the bone), but they cook quickly and you can’t beat that.

Here are some tricks. Skinless breasts want to stick to the pan, so rub them with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before you saute. To keep from ripping the flesh, brown them in a hot, lightly oiled pan and don’t turn them until you can nudge them and they move easily. Give the sauce lots of flavor by tossing in whole herb sprigs, and add a lemony taste with pared rind. The rind softens so much in the oven that you can leave it in the sauce, if you like. While the chicken is in the oven, cook baby red or golden potatoes (if you use a microwave for 8 to 10 minutes, you avoid a second pot) and tip them into the finished dish. When the skillet comes out of the oven, wrap the hot handle so no one forgets that it’s hot, and bring the whole glorious thing to the table.

Skillet chicken breasts
with apples and onions

Serves 4

4skinless, boneless chicken breasts (1½ pounds total)
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2tablespoons olive oil
1Spanish, Vidalia, Oso Sweet, or other large onion, thinly sliced
2medium apples, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
2tablespoons flour
cups chicken stock
2sprigs fresh thyme or oregano
Pared rind of 1 lemon
2tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or oregano (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a deep, heavy 12-inch skillet with a heatproof handle or a shallow flameproof casserole.

2. Rub the chicken breasts with a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In the skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook without disturbing for 5 minutes. When the chicken releases from the bottom of the pan with a slight nudge, turn it and cook the other side for 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.

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3. Add the onion to the skillet, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes.

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4. Add the apples and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes more. Sprinkle the mixture with oil if the pan seems dry. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

5. Pour in the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. It will thicken slightly.

6. Return the chicken and any juices in the bowl to the pan, nestling the breasts in the apple mixture. Add the thyme or oregano sprigs and lemon rind. Bring to a boil.

7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breasts registers 160 degrees.

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8. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Lift out and discard the herb sprigs and lemon rind (or keep the rind). Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Sprinkle with chopped thyme or oregano. Sheryl Julian

Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.