This recipe was originally developed by Pierre Franey in 1991 for the 60-Minute Gourmet column, a weekly feature dedicated to Times-worthy dishes that were easy, quick and inexpensive. Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and Capers fit the bill perfectly, and it still does today. Just sauté the chicken breasts until they are lightly browned. Then add shallots and garlic, tarragon, tomatoes, vinegar, capers, white wine and tomato paste. Stir well and cook for about 9 minutes more. That’s it. Or at least, that’s what they wrote…
A slew of ripe locally-grown tomatoes lined our countertop which we used as opposed to plum or canned. If using fresh, the directions didn’t mention removing the tomato skins, which can create a stringy, unappealing texture in an otherwise lovely sauce. So off they came!
I have found the easiest way to remove skins is to slice a shallow X on the bottom of the fruit, drop them top down into a pot of boiling water for only 30 seconds, remove and place the tomatoes directly into a prepared bowl of ice water and let them cool off. This will help to stop any “cooking” that has started.
After boiling for 30 seconds and plunging into a cold bath, the skins are easily removed.
Slice down the skinless tomatoes and remove the seeds and liquidy flesh, then chop down and drain.
Nor do the directions indicate to drain the plum tomatoes, and even though I sliced our big boys and removed the seeds and liquidy flesh, I still should have drained them of excess moisture. Several reviewers removed the chicken while the sauce cooked down to a desired consistency, avoiding overdone, rubbery fowl, so I decided to heed their advice.
Our mixture was quite watery indeed requiring an extra 30 minutes (not exactly desirable on a weeknight) to reduce and thicken the sauce to the desired consistency. Then I replaced the chicken, and covered the skillet for about 5 minutes until done. Russ thinks next time, after the garlic and shallots are fragrant, we should pour in the other liquids (wine and vinegar) and let it burn off some, thus eliminating some moisture up front. That’s what I like about that guy, he’s always thinking…
Our changes are incorporated in the directions below. Do yourself a favor, to save time use canned San Marzano tomatoes, you’ll eliminate several steps—and I’m guessing with equally amazing results! Luckily, we had leftovers, so we shredded the chicken, reheated the sauce and served over pasta. Would also be really good over mashed potatoes, rice, or polenta.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 pounds)
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
- 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped (or 8 ripe plum tomatoes cut into small cubes and drained)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup drained capers
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts.
In a large skillet, brown all sides in butter and oil.
After the chicken is browned for about 5 minutes, sauté the minced shallot and garlic.
Next time, we will add the white wine and vinegar to the shallot-garlic sautée before adding the rest of the ingredients to reduce down the amount of liquid.
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-bottom skillet. Add the chicken breasts and saute over medium-high heat, turning the pieces often until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Move chicken to a platter and cover with tin foil.
- Add the shallots and garlic to the hot skillet. Cook briefly; then add the white wine and red wine vinegar, reducing down about 2 minutes.
- Next add the tarragon, tomatoes, capers, and tomato paste. Stir to dissolve the brown particles adhering to the bottom of the skillet.
- Blend well, bring to a boil, and simmer for 9 minutes or more, reducing to preferred consistency.
- Add the chicken back to the skillet, cover and simmer for 5 minutes (longer if necessary, check with a meat thermometer.)
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
The original meal was so good we were glad there were leftovers…
Leftovers mixed with pasta and a side of sautéd spinach, really good!