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Sautéed Chicken Breast with Fresh Sage, Garlic and Lemon

Sautéed Chicken Breast with Fresh Sage, Garlic and Lemon

This recipe is adapted from a recipe for Petti di Pollo alla Salvia at Trattoria Antico Fattore in Florence, Italy.

Serves 4


4 skinless, boneless chicken  breast halves
zest and juice from one small lemon (use a microplane for the zest, and you can adjust the amount of zest or juice to taste)
1 cup of white wine
2 cloves of garlic, or to taste, thinly sliced
2 stems of fresh sage, about 25 to 30 leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fried sage leaves or lemon slices for garnish


Marinate the chicken breasts in the lemon juice, zest, sage leaves, wine and 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil for 30 minutes, covered and at room temperature. Remove the chicken and pat dry with a towel.  Strain the marinade. Reserve the sage leaves and the strained marinade in separate bowls.

In a a large, nonreactive fry or sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add 3 tablespoons of butter.  Continue to melt the butter until it is hot and bubbly. 

Add the sliced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add the chicken breasts, smooth (presentation) side down and sauté until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Turn the chicken over and season with salt and pepper.  Tuck the reserved sage leaves around the chicken and continue to cook until the bottom is golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Watch the garlic and sage to make sure that they don’t burn.)

Remove the sauté pan from the heat, transfer the chicken to a cutting board and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.  Slice the chicken on the diagonal, approximately 1/2 inch thick and place the sage leaves over the top.  Keep warm in a preheated 200º F oven or cover loosely with  foil.

Pour the grease from the sauté pan and heat the pan over moderately high heat.  Add the reserved marinade to the pan, and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Boil the sauce until it becomes thick and almost a glaze, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.  You can garnish with lemon wedges and extra fried sage leaves. 

Note: I like to serve this dish with pasta, such as pasta with arugula, tomatoes and shaved parmesan, or pasta with butter and cheese, such as Fettuccine al Burro e Formaggio.  As for wine, I generally serve both a red and white wine at the beginning of the meal.  For the red I might use a Rhône-style blend, a Cabernet Franc, a Mourvèrdre or perhaps a Petite Sirah and for the white wine, a crispy, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc.