Monday, April 14, 2014

Sweet and Sassy Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet is a nice word. It makes you think of nice things. Sour is not as nice a word. It makes you want to clench your jaw and pucker. And sassy is a kind of naughty word. It makes you giggle.

The combination of sweet and savory doesn’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re a fan of Sweet and Sour Chicken, this recipe is great. We’ve made a light and fresh sauce that’s more about complementing our flavorful grilled chicken than covering it with a red-dye enhanced shellac-like sweet & sour sauce.

All of the sweet and tart flavors in this recipe are derived from the foods themselves; no corn syrup or refined sugars of any kind are used. And the colors all come from nature, not a bottle.

So, if you occasionally indulge in an order of sweet & sour chicken from your neighborhood take-out place, try this one. I’m sure you’ll love the fresher, healthier version you make yourself.

Sweet and Sassy Chicken
Yield: 4 Servings     Preparation Time: 20 Minutes     Cooking Time: 1 Hour


• 4 Chicken Breast Halves, with bones and skin intact
• 2 Cloves Garlic, mashed into paste with ¼ teaspoon of Kosher Salt
• 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
• 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
• 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• Canola oil 

• 1 Medium Red Onion, frenched (See Tips and Trending)

• 2 Carrots, cut in ¼” slices on the bias

• 4 Cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger Root, minced 

• 2 Serrano Peppers, seeded and minced
• 1 Sweet Red Pepper, cut into ½” dice

• 1 Fresh Pineapple, cut into ½” dice

• 2 Oranges, zested and juiced

• 1 Lemon, zested and juiced

• 4 Scallions, white and green parts cut in ½” pieces on the bias

Preparation Steps

Step 1.
Preheat grill on high heat to 550ºF.

Step 2. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat them dry. Loosen the skin from the thickest part of the breast, leaving it attached everywhere else. Combine the garlic paste with the olive oil and rub the mixture under the skin of each breast. Wipe your oily hands on the surface of the skin and season it with the salt and pepper.

Step 3. Place the chicken skin side up in the center of the grill. Extinguish any gas burners directly under the chicken and reduce the outer burners to medium. If using a charcoal grill, move the hot coals to the outer edge of the grill. Close the grill to maintain 350ºF and cook the chicken without disturbing it for 50 minutes.

Step 4. While the chicken is cooking set a 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the hot pan with canola oil then add the onion, carrot, garlic, ginger, and peppers and sauté for 5 minutes.

Step 5. Stir in the pineapple, the orange and lemon zests and the juices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes to reduce the liquid until slightly thickened. Check for consistency and season with pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.

Step 6. After 50 minutes of grilling time, check the chicken for doneness with an instant thermometer. The chicken should be at 160º, if not let it remain on the grill for an additional 10 ten minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter and let it rest loosely covered with aluminum foil for 5 minutes. While the chicken is resting reheat the sauce over low heat.

Step 7. Use a boning knife to separate the breast meat from the bone while leaving the skin intact.

Serve the boned breast on top of the chunky sweet and sour vegetables and drizzle some of the liquid over the chicken. Garnish with the scallions.

Tips and Trending

~ Mashing garlic into paste is a great way to subtly infuse the taste into a dish and has lots of uses. Once you’ve pealed the garlic clove by smashing it with the side of a chef’s knife, give it a rough chop and sprinkle with one ⅛ teaspoon of coarse Kosher salt for every clove. Mash the garlic and salt together by pressing the garlic with the side of the knife and pulling the knife toward you with one hand while pressing down on the blade with your other hand. Note: The sharp edge of the knife should be facing away from you! Repeat this action several times until a paste forms. The very small amount of salt acts as an abrasive to get the best results but if you’re really concerned about sodium use, reduce the amount of salt in your recipe by the amount you use to mash the garlic.

~ I like to leave the carrot, sweet pepper and pineapple in good sized chunks, but frenching the onion provides slender ribbons that weave around the larger chunks of vegetables and fruit. Frenching an onion is easy if you first cut off both the stem and root ends of the onion. Remove the papery skin and cut the onion in half from stem to root ends. Now most directions will tell you to keep the flat, just cut, side of the onion down to make the next cuts. I like to stand the onion up on either the stem or root end with the flat side facing away from me. Now cut down to create equally thick wedges from the outside to the core from right to left, or left to right if you’re left handed. Repeat with the other half of the onion. For this recipe I cut fairly thin wedges.

~ Many grocery stores have fresh pineapples that have already been peeled and cored. You’ll pay a slightly higher price for having this work done for you, but it is a great time saver and because they’re fresh, unlike the canned versions there will be no added sugars or preservatives.

~ If you prefer a thicker and glossier Asian restaurant style sauce, don’t boil it after adding the fruit, zests and juice in Step 7.  Bring the sauce to a simmer when reheating it just before serving and stir in a slurry made with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Add only half of the slurry at first into the simmering liquid and let it cook and thicken. Add the rest of the slurry only if necessary. Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to cook away any starchy taste.

~ Fluffy white rice is the natural accompaniment for this dish, but you can mix things up by serving it with your favorite noodles or on a bed of soft butter lettuce leaves.

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