Yield: 4 servings
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, minced
1 medium garlic, minced
3/4 cup pearl barley
2-1/4 cups chicken broth
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoon lemon juice, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (5 ounce) chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth, low-sodium
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees and position an oven rack in the center.
Place a medium heavy saucepan on the stove over a moderate heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and when shimmering, add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the barley and cook, stirring constantly, until well coated in the shallot and garlic, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of chicken broth and bay leaf and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, stir and cover. Cook until the barley is almost tender with a slight bite, about 25 minutes. Stir in the celery and carrot and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the barley pilaf from the heat, stir and remove bay leaf. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
While the barley is cooking, place a large nonstick skillet on the stove and add the remaining oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the oil is shimmering, carefully add the chicken, top side first, until golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken breast and transfer to the oven to bake until cooked through and registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 8 to 10 minutes. When cooked, transfer chicken to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and rest until ready to carve.
Place the skillet on top the stove over a moderate-high heat. Add the white wine and cook until almost dry, about 4 minutes. Add the broth and thyme and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and season with salt and pepper.
To serve: Divide the pilaf between 4 warmed plates. Carve chicken, arrange over the barley, spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.