cook's illustrated pan-roasted chicken breasts with newcastle brown ale sauce

1 cup kosher salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp avocado oil
2 whole bone-in chicken breasts
with skin, about 1.5 pounds each, or 4 split breasts
3/4 cup chicken broth
low sodium
1/2 cup brown ale
1 whole bay leaf
1 tsp brown sugar
1 sprig thyme
1 half onion
medium, sliced very thin
3 tbsp butter
cold, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
salt and ground black pepper
This recipe comes from the very first free Cook's Illustrated issue we received in the mail many years ago. The layout of the original recipe was really hard to read, so we're thrilled to have this recipe ported into the numnums layout! This recipe is great for entertaining for an intimate dinner party and is a good way to practice cooking techniques such as brining, browning, making sauce from fond, reducing, and mounting with butter.
for the chicken
Split the chicken breasts if using whole pieces. Cut the breast in half at the center breast bone. Trim off rib sections from each breast following the vertical line of fat from the tapered end of the breast up to the socket where the wing was attached.
Dissolve the salt in 2 quarts of cold tap water. Brine the chicken in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Move the oven rack to the lowest position then set the heat to 450°F. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season the chicken with pepper.
Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high until it starts to smoke.
Brown the chicken, skin side down, for about 5 minutes until it turns golden brown.
Flip the chicken and brown the other side for about 3 minutes.
Flip the chicken again so that the skin side is facing down. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 15-18 minutes until internal temp reaches 160°F. Rest the chicken, tented in foil, in a separate platter while making the pan sauce.
for the sauce
While the chicken roasts, measure and combine the chicken broth, brown ale, bay leaf, sugar, and thyme in a measuring cup. Reserve.
Once the chicken has finished roasting, spoon off some of the fat from the skillet if desired, then warm the skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes until softened.
Add the chicken broth mixture to the skillet. Bump the heat up to high. Stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to incorporate the fond into the sauce. Simmer rapidly for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and reduces to about 3/4 cup.
Pour in chicken juices from the resting breasts and stir. Bump the heat down to medium. (Reserve half of the sauce at this point if making the chicken for two separate meals.)
Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Whisk in one piece of butter at a time.
Add the cider vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
to plate & serve
To plate, divide the onions evenly for each serving then form them into a ring. Spoon the sauce into the ring of onions and rest each piece of chicken in the middle of the onions and sauce. Serve immediately.