Friday, May 27, 2011
Apricot Chicken: A change
This week my entire world flipped upside down. It was "opposite week" -- an extended version of "opposite day," which I loathed as a child. I never failed to forget that "yes" really meant "no," and that if I said I was a girl my classmates would immediately start snickering that this confession meant I was actually a boy.
I won't go into my thoughts on "Friday Flip-up Day" when the threat of one's skirt being flipped up loomed in the air, so I'll let it suffice to say that I was not a fan of days that disrupted the usual state of things -- especially when it involved wardrobe malfunctions.
Thankfully, this week involved none of that nonsense, but it was still a shock to my system. I'm driving east rather than west, I'm working in an open loft space with a view of downtown rather than a lonely yellow-walled office with a view of the parking lot, and I'm busy. Challenged. Excited in a way that keeps me up at night because my mind won't shut down.
And I don't want it to shut down.
As much as I hated "opposite day" as a child, I'm loving these changes and loving the breathless, exhilarated feeling that comes with it.
It's put me in a different state of mind. I feel like for the past three and a half years I've been forced to order the same bland bowl of mashed potatoes every day, and I've suddenly been presented with a brand new menu for my life. I can have duck confit! I can have gnocchi with English peas! And I can have apricot chicken.
I haven't been cooking much chicken this past year. Since moving to an apartment without a dishwasher, I find myself feeling less and less inclined to work with a protein that necessitates sterilizing all the items that touch it with boiling water (my neurosis continues to be an issue). But when I was strolling through my local farmers' market this past Sunday, I couldn't resist the fresh apricots that my favorite vendor was selling for $2 a pound. I remembered the apricot chicken recipe I'd printed from Simply Recipes the year prior and knew I had to make it. Even if it meant sterilizing everything in my kitchen when I was done.
So I bought my first ever jar of Tabasco sauce, I bought a package of chicken for the first time in five months, and I cooked up a dinner that was the opposite of what I normally make for myself.
I wasn't sure how the melange of different flavors would work together -- rosemary, cinnamon, Tabasco, and apricots aren't inherently complimentary -- but the final product was unexpectedly delightful. Initially, a bit jarring to my palate, but ultimately, delicious.
It was a good change -- a good opposite. And way better than that bland bowl of mashed potatoes.
I'm taking that item off the menu. Forever.
Apricot Chicken Recipe
Lightly adapted from Simply Recipes
Adaptations: I reduced the amount of olive oil and sugar, omitted the butter, and increased the proportions of cider vinegar, onion and Tabasco sauce.
1/2 pound fresh apricots, chopped, pits removed and discarded
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2/3 pounds skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, diced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 (heaping) teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Tabasco
Place the chopped apricots in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and the vinegar. Let sit while you brown the chicken in the next step.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the pan, swirling to coat the base. Add the chicken, sprinkle with salt, and stir-fry until browned and cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside.
Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan and sauté the onion until it begins to brown. Once the onions have browned a bit, add the chicken stock and lower the heat to medium.
Put about 2/3 of the apricots, along with any juice they have given up, into a blender and blend into a purée. (Can also use an immersion blender.) Pour the purée into the pan with the chicken stock and onions.
Add the cinnamon, rosemary and Tabasco and taste. You may need to add some salt. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and gently simmer for 10-20 minutes.
When you are ready to serve, put the chicken and the remaining apricot pieces into the pan and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Serve hot over quinoa or rice.