Monday, November 05, 2012


I dogeared this page in the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light, but I didn’t manage to make it before the weather got warm and maple-flavored food lost its seasonal appeal. As soon as L.A. finally cooled off again (mostly; it’s 93 degrees as I write this—but we’ll be down to 46 in a few days), it was at the top of my to-cook list, and it turned out to be everything I’d hoped: easy, sweet-salty-savory, and autumnal. I doubled down on the fall ingredients by serving it with my favorite kale and butternut squash salad, which was an excellent pairing.

I’m grateful that I followed the lead of many commenters in doubling all the sauce quantities except for the syrup. I feel like “double the sauce” is a popular refrain on just about every Cooking Light recipe ever (for the most part, the magazine is more austere than its readers), but in this case, some who didn’t do so complained that it cooked down to a burnt-caramel mess by the time they pulled it out of the oven, and after the balsamic reduction fiasco this summer, I was leery of further damage to my cast iron. The doubled quantities felt like just the right amount, enough to spoon over the chicken without drowning it. Not increasing the maple syrup was key, because I certainly wouldn’t have wanted the sauce to be any sweeter than it was, and I appreciated the extra tang of cider vinegar and mustard to balance everything out.

In all, this is a simple, lovely fall-winter main dish that’s quick enough for a weeknight meal but fancy enough for company, and versatile enough to go with a whole range of side dishes. I plan to make it often, at least during our brief, precious cool months.

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup maple syrup
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Add chicken to pan; sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan.

3. Add broth, syrup, thyme, and garlic to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vinegar and mustard; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return chicken to pan, and spoon mustard mixture over chicken.

4. Bake for 10 minutes or until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place pan over medium heat; cook mustard mixture 2 minutes or until liquid is syrupy, stirring frequently. Serve over the chicken.

Serves: 4
Time: 35 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

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