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Chicken breasts become intensely flavorful and juicy with my easy technique: start spice-rubbed chicken in a cold pan. Not only does the slow rise in heat prevent the spices from burning, it also keeps the chicken from sticking to the pan. From a technical standpoint, it’s great because you get a sous vide effect, with the meat cooking through evenly first while retaining its juices and developing a seared crust at the end.
The chicken—along with its instant pan sauce—takes well to a range of flavors. The well-loved pairing of coriander and cumin creates an irresistible crust on chicken breasts, which finish in a tangy, sticky balsamic vinegar glaze. The fruity heat of black pepper balances the sweetness of the pan sauce.
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
Finely grind the coriander, peppercorns, and cumin together and immediately mix with the ginger. Or mix together 2 teaspoons pre-ground coriander, 1⁄2 teaspoon pre-ground black pepper, and 3⁄4 teaspoon pre-ground cumin with the ginger.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8 ounces each)
Sprinkle the spice blend all over the chicken to evenly coat. You can cook them right away or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
Season the spiced chicken with salt. Generously coat a large skillet or sauté pan with oil (2 to 3 tablespoons). Put the chicken in the pan in a single layer, smooth-side down, spacing the breasts apart, and set over medium heat. Cook nice and slow until the bottoms are golden, about 7 minutes. Using a spatula or tongs, carefully flip each piece.
Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 120°F, about 7 minutes. Flip again, reduce the heat to low, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160°F, about 6 minutes more.
Drizzle the vinegar all around the chicken. It should bubble and spatter immediately. Continuously turn the chicken to glaze it in the reducing vinegar until lightly coated, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let stand for a few minutes, drizzle the pan glaze over the chicken, and serve.
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