27 October, 2011

Maple-Mustard Seared Chicken

My Grandma Jo used to that "anything that takes longer to cook than it does to eat isn't worth the fuss".  I heard that from my mom a bajillion times which is a rich statement coming from someone that makes caramel corn by the roaster oven full.  It takes 1 hour to make a batch and about 30 minutes for a large family to kill the whole tin.  Heck, we even used to pour milk on it and eat it like cereal.  I'll make it sometime for my flog...

At any rate, the other night I was in the mood for real home cooked food.  I'm not sure what brings that on, but I don't fight it anymore.  I looked through the cupboards and had a plan in no time flat.  Baked acorn squash,  roasted baby red potatoes and pan seared chicken breasts.  Doesn't sound that fun, but give me a minute or ten and we'll see what we can do with this typically boring menu.

Olive Oil Roasted Acorn Squash
2 medium sized fresh acorn squash
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper
Fresh cracked sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Let's begin with the potatoes and the squash.  They really need to be doing their thing in the oven while you're messing about with the chicken and sauce.  SO!...first lob BOTH ends off your acorn squash; top and bottom.  This allows them to lay flat in the roaster pan.  Once you have sliced the ends off, cut it clean in the middle.  Spoon out the guts into the trash, unless you are a fan of toasted seeds.  If so, put them into a bowl to be dealt with later.

They should look something like this before getting seasoned.

When they are ready to be seasoned turn them hollow side up and rub the inside of each half with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, making sure you cover every speck of orange with olive oil.  Then sprinkle liberally with fresh cracked peppercorns and sea salt.

Now that might look like TOO much, but trust me, it won't be.  In point of fact, once you spoon this out to serve you may want to have the salt and pepper at the table.  Next, put a small amount of water in the bottom of this roaster.  Just until the bottom has no spots of pan that aren't covered with water.  Then cover the whole pan with a huge piece of tin foil.  This creates a perfect steam oven so your squash doesn't dry out.  Put the lid on before you put it in the oven anyhow...just in case there is a leak in the foil.  Now set the roaster aside.

Olive Oil & Chive Roasted Baby Reds
2.5 lbs. medium sized baby red potatoes (you wouldn't believe how BIG these can be now)
1/4 c. dehydrated chive or 1/2 c. fresh snipped chive
Fresh cracked peppercorns
Fresh cracked sea salt
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Get out your cuttin' board and get to slicing.  Try to cube these as best you can, no larger than 1.5 inches.  Toss them into a large bowl along with the chive, olive oil, pepper and salt.  Either with your hands or a large wooden spoon stir until the potatoes are well coated with the seasonings and the oil.  Turn them into a smaller roasting pan or a 9 x 13 cake pan will work just as well.  If the ratio of potato looks too small with all the seasonings and chive in there...your potatoes might have been smaller than what I call "medium", chop more if you feel the need.  Just make sure whatever pan you have that the lid can stay down securely.  If you are roasting these in a cake pan cover them snugly with tin foil.

Put the squash pan and the potatoes in the oven at the same time.  Bake them both for 15 minutes, then check them with a fork.  It is pretty important that you not mess with the potatoes in particular.  To open and close and open and close that foil on the potatoes and cause the heat to fluctuate by opening and closing the door a lot...your potatoes won't come out so crisp.  When they are forkable, take both pans out of the oven and set them aside.  Do not take anything out of these pans yet.  

Turn the temperature on the oven down to 275.

Maple-Mustard Seared Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. sea salt
1 T. oil
2 T. vegan buttery spread, melted
1 T. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 recipe of Maple-Mustard sauce (see below)

First, once these suckers are thawed pat them dry with paper towels.  Poke the thick ends of the chicken breasts with a fork.  Sprinkle each chicken breast with about a 1/2 tsp. of sea salt.  Place them rounded side down in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  (This will flatten them out a bit for the pan searing process later.)  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a digital thermometer reads 145-150 degrees.

Once you remove the chicken turn the heat back up to 425 on the oven.  Place the squash and potatoes back in for 10 more minutes...use a timer that beeps lol...trust me!

Take the chicken breasts out of the oven and pat dry again with paper towels.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  While the pan is heating whisk the melted butter, flour, cornstarch and pepper together in a bowl.  Brush the tops of each chicken breast with this mixture.  Place the chicken in the skillet brushed side DOWN.  While that is searing away, brush the side facing you.  Cook each side at least 4 minutes so it gets a nice crisp on the outside.  Turn the heat down to medium and flip the breasts over, cooking another 4 minutes.

 Right before I flipped them over
Now for the easiest part of all, the Maple Mustard sauce.  This is pretty easy, just make sure the stuff you are using is close to high quality or this may not taste that great to you.  I only use organic condiments in my home, mostly to avoid the extra added sugars and preservatives that don't add a single dingle thing to the condiment but extra empty calories.  So I used a nice organic maple syrup for this and a stone ground spicy mustard.

Maple-Mustard Sauce
1/4 c. organic maple syrup
1/8 c. prepared mustard

You can heat this up in a pan or in the nuker, it is up to you.  But I've always been led to believe microwaving kills nutrients and flavor.  So...go with the pan.  Stir it until it is completely combined and heat it through.  Serve it on the side or over top of your chicken.  Try it before you slather it on anything.  Do you like it?  Does it need more maple in your opinion?  Perhaps more 'stard??  Make it taste good to YOU.  That's what all this effort was for!!  You and your family to enjoy a meal!

 Roasted Squash & Baby Reds w/ Pan Seared Maple-Mustard Chicken

Everyone loved this...even the Sprout.  My husband is usually hard to please with flavors.  NOTHING impresses him.  He really liked this.  Whew!  As long as it took me to type this...I didn't even work that hard in the kitchen people.  Seriously easy...unbelievably yummy and something that I am sure you'll make more than once.  You can make different sauces, change up the side dishes...but a good piece of pan seared chicken that is WONDERFULLY moist on the inside and fabulously crisp on the outside is sure to become a new family favorite!  Enjoy!

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