One of the first things that I figured out how to cook, reliably, was boneless chicken in a skillet. Let’s face it: Boneless chicken is easy to work with, as proteins go – you just sort of cut it up (or not) and throw it in a pan or on a grill, and as long as you don’t totally incinerate it or leave it raw in the center it’ll be reasonably edible at the end of the cooking process. It’s also a blank canvas, so just by changing up the seasonings and vegetables you add to it, you can expand your repertoire of “mastered dishes” pretty easily. There: Now you know how I survived graduate school. (That, and oatmeal. Lots of oatmeal.)

When I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, my parents would go out for the evening relatively frequently, and my sister and I would be left to our own devices. Of course, she was a bit older and often had a social calendar of her own, so that meant that a couple of times a month I’d be hanging out at home with nothing but my favorite movies, my piano, and a fridge full of food. My parents never “left” me dinner on these nights. Instead, my mom – who, bless her, believed that cooking was a life skill I’d need – would walk me through the kitchen and point out all the possibilities. And at some point, I’d get hungry and rummage through the cupboards to get a skillet, a wooden spoon, and the olive oil. Dinner was on.

Chicken + peppers + salsa = fajitas, as long as there were tortillas (there almost always were). Chicken + broccoli + a package mix of cheesy noodles = a “fancy” Alfredo dish. Chicken + garlic + angel hair pasta and whatever vegetables I could find = something I would eat weekly for most of my young adulthood. I gained the confidence to pull together an edible and reasonably healthy meal for myself on those evenings, and whenever I get stuck on trying to plan meals for my own family now, I find that the old formula still saves me.

My skillet chicken dishes now are slightly more sophisticated, but not any harder to make. This humble riff on the idea isn’t flashy or beautiful, but after J. and the boys ate it up eagerly at least a half-dozen times or so, it occurred to me that it was probably worth sharing. After all, who doesn’t need another variation on the old standby?

I’ll just be honest right off the bat: This dish is all about the brown butter and the toasted garlic, and if you don’t like either, move along. Also, you’ll probably think that you can cut down on the butter or you can omit the lemon juice or something, but I’m here to tell you that this is not one of those times where I’ll bless substitutions. You need the lemon juice and you need ALL THE BUTTER. Fortunately there’s a hefty dose of broccoli rabe in this, so you can pretend you’re virtuous because of the preponderance of greens.

Brown Butter Balsamic Chicken with Broccoli Rabe is easy to make, has only a handful of ingredients – most of which you probably keep on hand anyway – and comes together in under 20 minutes. This is a skillet chicken dish that’s worth keeping in mind next time you just don’t know what you want to eat.

Get the recipe: Brown Butter Balsamic Chicken with Broccoli Rabe