I wasn't in the mood for the POM and balsamic-glazed chicken. I was cranky from spending an hour driving the 7.8 miles between my Santa Monica office and my West Hollywood apartment, I only had 65 minutes before I had to leave for my friend's play, "Makin' Hay," and my chicken breast was still partially frozen. I wanted nothing more than to toss the recipe aside, polish off a couple glasses of my bottle of Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc, and pop a frozen pizza in the oven instead.
Rather than going with my kitchen gut, however, I pressed on -- forcing myself to go through the motions of making the dish without any of the passion I usually exhibit when attempting a new recipe. I pan-fried my breast with a scowl, measured out the ingredients for the POM and balsamic sauce with a frown, and threw my quinoa side together without an ounce of tender loving care. Carla from "Top Chef" would have been appalled by my lackluster performance.
There was no love going into my dinner at all.
Part of my poor attitude could be attributed to my bad mood, but the other part was due to a disconnect with the recipe. I couldn't decide if I should prepare it to be sweet or savory, and was befuddled by how the different flavors -- balsamic vinegar, 100% POM juice, brown sugar, oregano, basil -- would come together. The original recipe called for the dish to be served with green onions and carrots, and I reinterpreted this by making a quinoa side perked up with the colorful veggies. Since this was my first time working with the POM juice however, I didn't feel confident about how this would meld with the overall vision of the dish. Instead of feeling excited about what I was doing, I plodded around the kitchen as though I was preparing frozen fish sticks and some sort of egregious tartar sauce.
By the time I sat down with my dinner I knew I had taken the recipe in the wrong direction. My lack of enthusiasm, lack of understanding of the flavor profiles, and disconnect with the ingredients, led to a very disconnected plate. Even as I ate it, I still couldn't decide whether the chicken was meant to be sweet or savory. I did know that it did not go well with my quinoa, which, incidentally, was quite good on its own. And I did know that part of my failure in the kitchen was not because of an inherent flaw in the recipe, but because my heart was not in it.
I love pomegranates, and adore it mixed into cocktails, iced tea, ice creams/sorbets, and salads, but don't know that I love it in this type of preparation. That doesn't mean I'm going to give up on the antioxidant powerhouse - on the contrary, it makes me even more determined to find an application that will work for me -- but it does mean that I am going to think twice before going against my kitchen instincts to make something that doesn't appeal to me as a chef nor as a diner. I'm going to take the sage advice of my favorite "Hooty-hooing" "Top Chef" contestant and work with ingredients and food that do inspire me. And then I'll love the heck out of them.
POM and Balsamic- Glazed Chicken
Adapted from POM Wonderful
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 tablespoons POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Pinch of oregano
Flour for dredging
Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and lightly dredge with flour. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat, and brown chicken on both sides. Add chicken broth, balsamic vinegar and pepper to taste, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, mix pomegranate juice, sugar, cornstarch, oregano together in a separate bowl. Remove chicken from skillet, add pomegranate mixture and reduce sauce until it thickens, Add chicken back to the pan to reheat and then serve with something other than the below recipe for quinoa.
Quinoa with Carrots and Green Onions
1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup diced white onion
2 tablespoons diced carrot
1 sliced green onion
1/2 cup chicken broth
Heat olive oil in small saucepan. Saute onion until tender, add quinoa and toast for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, season with pepper, and then cover. Half-way through, add the diced carrots. Simmer over low heat until quinoa has absorbed liquid and the outer "shells" have separated from quinoa kernels (approximately 20 minutes). Toss in green onions just prior to serving, reserving some of the green ends for a garnish.