Friday, April 4, 2008

Chicken with Shallot-Apricot Sauce: Sweet Victory

Hey everybody! Remember yesterday, when I was all like, “Buy a cantaloupe! They’re delicious, and nothing could ever possibly be wrong with them?” Uh … not so much. Astute reader Joel pointed out that there was a cantaloupe recall on March 22nd, as a Honduran company called Agropecuaria Montelibano has shipped quite a few salmonella-tainted melons. The offending paragraph has been removed, and please feel free to send me the bill if you went out and bought a dozen. As always, I’m dumb.

(Edited to add: this looks like it might be a bigger deal now. See here.)

For further proof of my dumbinity, it finally occurred to me (after nine months) that I should mention more of my failures on this blog. (Note: it didn’t actually occur to me. It occurred to my friend F, who said, “You know, you should mention more of your failures on the blog. That way, people would feel better about the dishes you DO post on.” He’s usually right about these things – and about New Zealand novelty folk duos – so I’m going with it.)

Anyway, of the three or four new dishes I make per week, usually only one or two work out. I can generally chalk this up to my own inexperience or sketchy recipes, because as it turns out, you can’t eat everything you read. To illustrate, here are a few examples of recent bombs:

Weight Watchers Macaroni and Cheese: I whipped this up last year, but used fat-free instead of low-fat cheese, turning the meal into an abomination on par with Soylent Green. This time around, I followed the directions to the letter. And you know what? It still sucked.

Strawberry Mousse from Enchanted Broccoli Forest: Dude. I’m not sure why they didn’t just call this “Two-Hour Strawberry Yogurt,” because that’s exactly what it is.

Mashed Yucca with Garlic: This one was more my fault than lovely, wonderful Sara Moulton. I dumped waaaaaay too much milk into the mixture, creating a soupy, lumpy catastrophe instead of velvety, creamy comfort food. As my roommate C noted, “So, the yucca was yucka.” She’s clever, that one.

Ellie Krieger’s Pasta Puttanesca: Ellie is wonderful, and quickly becoming one of my favorite Food Network cooks. And while this dish was far from a disaster, it was nothing special either. (Incidentally, “nothing special” meals are almost worse than flat-out disasters, because they had so much potential. It’s like when a parent says, “I’m disappointed in you,” and it’s ten times more traumatic than if they just yelled.)

Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary, and Garlic Lasagna: An unmitigated disaster. It took a year to cook, made me nauseous, and nobody ate the leftovers. It’s LASAGNA for pete’s sake. Leftovers are THE POINT. Cooking Light, I expected better.

While the letdowns have been plentiful and painful, I’m proud to say that today’s recipe, Chicken with Shallot Apricot Sauce, is a winner. It got raves from The Kitchn, as well as CHG reader Gretchen, who tried it and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. My own version was fruity and sweet and fancy looking, to boot. The chicken was a tad dry, but I think that was more a result of my overcooking than the instructions.

I should mention that The Kitchn recipe serves four, but I made a half-batch and reduced the olive oil a bit. Those calculations are reflected below.

Chicken with Shallot-Apricot Sauce
Serves 2
Adapted from The Kitchn.

For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Mine were 6oz each – Kris)
salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 cup chicken broth

For the sauce:
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2-1/2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 heaping tablespoons apricot jam or preserves
salt and pepper

1) Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chicken. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over high heat. Place chicken in skillet and brown, about 3 or 4 minutes per side. Cover pan. Drop heat to low. Cook chicken fully, another 4 or 5 minutes. When done, use tongs to put chicken on a plate. Tent with tin foil and set aside.

2) Jack heat up to high. Add 1/8th cup broth to chicken pan, scraping up browned bits with your spoon as broth heats. Remove from heat and set aside when bits are fully scraped.

3) While this is all going on/as chicken breast browns, heat the other 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add shallots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until shallots soften, around 5 minutes.

4) Add 1/4 cup broth to shallot pan, scraping up browned bits with your spoon as broth heats. Add vinegar. Drop heat to medium-low. Cook another 5 minutes or so. Add jam. Stir thoroughly to mix. "The sauce will thicken but should still be easily stirred."

5) Slice chicken. Place on platter. Pour contents of pan #1 (the juices) on top. Pour apricot-shallot sauce on top of that. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
305 calories, 9 g fat, $1.52

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6oz ea): 375 calories, 4.2 g fat, $1.49
1 tablespoons olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.10
6 tablespoons chicken broth: 5 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.10
2-1/2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced thin: 36 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.98
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar: 20 calories, 0 g fat, $0.15
1 heaping tablespoons apricot jam or preserves: 55 calories, 0 g fat, $0.18
salt and pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.03
TOTAL: 610 calories, 18 g fat, $3.03
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 305 calories, 9 g fat, $1.52

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Kristen said...

I've had my share of disappointing recipes lately's so frustrating to pick a recipe, shop for ingredients, cook it, and then have it turn out like crap.

I've had 3 duds from Taste of Home in the last week, and I'm about to swear off of all recipes except those that come from Cook's Illustrated!

leanne said...

I'm confused... what happens to the 1/8 c. chicken broth that you added to the chicken pan? Am I missing something? It seems like the sauce gets made in a separate pan (with an additional 1/4 c. broth)...

leanne said...

Oh, duh. At the end you pour pan juices AND sauce over the chicken. But, wouldn't it be easier to combine them and make it one "sauce"? I think I would sautee the shallots in the chicken pan after the chicken is cooked, deglaze once with chicken broth, and then proceed with adding vinegar and jam.

It does sound good, though.

Daniel Koontz said...

Kris, I think I just pulled a stomach muscle laughing at that video by Flight of the Conchords. Thanks for sharing!

Casual Kitchen

Chief Family Officer said...

Yum! Don't be too hard on yourself - when you try that many new recipes (and especially when you are this adventurous!), about half are bound to be ... uninspiring, shall we say. I think you're awesome :)

Joel said...

Ooo... I'm a sucker for apricot anything. Yum!

Mary said...

Made this for myself and hubby and I doubled the apricot to make it a little sweeter. We ate every single bit of it! I was sad I hadn't made more. The sauce tastes like something you would eat in a nice restaurant, in my opinion. Very easy to make.