Pan Seared Chicken Breasts Served Over White Quinoa with Dried Cherries, Pistachios and Goat Cheese
Last night we prepared pan seared chicken breasts and served them over a most delicious white quinoa salad prepared with dried cherries, toasted pistachios and fresh goat cheese. It’s the quinoa salad that makes this meal so special.
Yes, you want to pan sear the chicken breasts to perfection which really means not to over cook them but its the side dish that gives the meal all its flavor.
It’s important to learn how to pan sear chicken or any other ingredient properly and to Know When the Chicken Is Done but it’s just as important to learn what to serve with it to enhance the flavor. Often times it is a sauce or reduction sauce or in this case, the side dish it is served with.
I call the technique “pan searing” but you could also call it “pan fry” and some may call it “saute”. I don’t think there is much difference between “pan searing” and “pan frying” but I have to research that further.
There is a difference between these two techniques and “saute” as described in my post, The Difference Between Saute, Pan Fry and Stir Fry.
There are many types of quinoa – white, red, black are the most common but there are many more varieties existing in the Andes. White quinoa, also called ivory quinoa, is the most common and easiest to find in your local supermarkets and gourmet food stores.
Pan Seared Chicken Breasts Over Quinoa Recipe
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 shallots minced
- 6 tablespoons dried cherries roughly chopped
- 6 tablespoons pistachios we used roasted pistachios from Trader Joe’s
- 1 cup white quinoa
- 4 chicken breasts boneless - skinless
- 10 ounces spinach well washed
- 4 ounces goat cheese fresh, rumbled
- 4 sprigs parsley roughly chopped
- Start by putting a pot of salted water big enough to cook the cup of quinoa over high heat and bring to a boil.
Prep the Ingredients
- Carefully wash and dry all the fresh ingredients including the chicken breasts. Dice the garlic and shallots and roughly chop the pistachios and dried cherries.
- Remove the parsley leaves from stems, roughly chop and reserve for garnishing. You can toss the stems or save them for making future stocks.
- Wash and dry the chicken breasts and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Cook the Quinoa
- When the water comes to a boil, add the white quinoa and cook until tender. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes. When cooked, drain and reserve.
Toast the Pistachios
- You can toast the pistachios in a small fry pan or in the larger one you’ll pan sear the chicken breasts. Up to you and how many pans you want to use. I prefer keeping the clean up to a minimum.
- Heat the pan over over medium-heat for a minute or two, add the chopped pistachios and cook until the nuts are toasted and give off a nutty fragrance. Be sure to stir frequently and don’t walk away from this task to work on something else. It only takes a second for these to go from perfectly toasted to burnt. Believe me, it happens.
Cook the Chicken
- Heat a sauté (frying) pan large enough to hold all 4 chicken breasts over medium heat until hot. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and give it a minute to get hot but don’t let it smoke.
- Add the chicken breasts, loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for 3 - 4 minutes per side until browned and the chicken is cooked through. You can use an instant thermometer, your finger or cut into them to see if the juices are clear. It’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how long they will take because it depends on the thickness of the breasts.
- When the chicken breasts are done, remove and transfer to a plate and loosely cover with the aluminum foil you just used to cook the chicken. The chicken will continue to cook while you get the quinoa salad ready.
Prepare the Salad Ingredients
- In the same pan you just pan seared the chicken breasts, add 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat up over medium heat.
- Add the minced shallot, stir, then add the minced garlic and stir again. Let this cook for 45 seconds until fragrant. Again, stir often to prevent burning.
- Add the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes until the spinach wilts.
- Add the chopped cherries and toasted pistachios and give the ingredients a stir.
- Add the cooked quinoa then season with salt and pepper. Combine all the ingredients with a large serving spoon. Remove from heat.
Plate and Serve
- Spoon the quinoa salad onto plates and top with a chicken breast. Sprinkle some crumbled goat cheese on top of the chicken, garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
Recipe Update – Roast Chicken vs Pan Seared Chicken
Since posting this recipe, we’ve prepared it by roasting the chicken instead of pan-searing (pan-frying) the pieces and liked the results better. Not sure I can pinpoint the difference but I think the skin was a little more crisp when roasting. I have a few roast chicken recipes below and will work on a master chicken roasting technique.