Wednesday, September 2, 2009

State Fair Chicken with Caramelized Apples & Onions

There is a definite change in the air here in Maine. The goldenrod is in bloom and, when it is gone, our short summer will be over. On my daily walk, I pass by an apple tree whose branches are heavy with ripe, red apples. It is apple picking season and it makes me think of the caramel apples I loved to eat every autumn at the State Fair when I was growing up. (It's odd, but only in fall do I have a craving for caramel apples. Any other time of year, I wouldn't be tempted.) Maine is known for their tart, crisp Cortland and McIntosh apples. They're too soft for pies, but are excellent for recipes that don't require much cooking time and they make the best applesauce! They become the key ingredient in many of my recipes at this time of year.

Since I can no longer eat them, this recipe is dedicated to the creamy and sharp caramel apples I fondly remember. The candy-like cinnamon and coriander spices combined with the tang from the hot sauce make this savory sauce the perfect compliment to the sweet caramelized onions and tart, still slightly crisp apples. The trick to bringing out the natural sweetness in onions is to cook them slowly for a long time over low heat. If you think you’re not an onion fan, I recommend that you try this recipe. Caramelized onions are not like any raw onion you've ever eaten. This recipe will change your opinion about them forever!

State Fair Chicken with Caramelized Apples and Onions
(Serves 4)

4 (6 oz) boneless & skinless chicken breasts (or 12 chicken tenders)
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil, divided
Salt & pepper
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 small apples, cored and thinly sliced (peel or leave skin, as desired)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup apple cider or juice
1 cup chicken stock
Dash of hot sauce (or to taste)
Green onions or chives, chopped

1. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Place ½ tablespoon oil in skillet and heat to medium-high. Add chicken breasts and cook until browned and almost cooked through, about 5-6 minutes per side. (If using tenders, only cook about 3 minutes per side.) Remove from heat and cover with foil to keep warm. (Do not overcook to avoid meat from drying out. Chicken will continue to cook under foil and later in step #4.)

2. Reduce heat to low. To skillet, add the other ½ tablespoon oil and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, sprinkle apples slices with cinnamon and coriander and toss to coat. Add to skillet and heat on low until apples begin to soften and onion caramelizes to a golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add butter and, when melted, sprinkle flour over apple mixture and cook for 1 minute.

4. Add cider, chicken stock and hot sauce and stir until sauce is smooth and thickened slightly. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Return chicken and any accumulated liquid to skillet and cook briefly until heated through and juices of chicken run clear when pierced with fork. Remove chicken to serving dishes. Divide sauce, onions and apples evenly over chicken and sprinkle with green onions for garnish.

Nutritional Information per serving: 226 calories, 16.2 g carbohydrate, 6.2 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1.7 g fiber, 29.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

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