December 19, 2017

Cranberry Balsamic Chicken

In my opinion, winter dinners should take advantage of the few in-season ingredients, be easy to prepare, can be scaled up easily to feed all your guests, and warm you up from the inside for those days that are too cold to move and/or freeze your soul with studying (yay finals!). This cranberry balsamic chicken meets all of these goals; a surprising amount of flavor is packed into one dish, it's a savory way to use cranberries, it's the same amount of work to feed one or ten people, and it's cozy enough to eat while binge-watching Netflix in a giant fuzzy blanket while ignoring your responsibilities. Did I mention it's finals week?

The chicken starts with a marinade of olive oil, spices, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar. It's an acidic punch that tenderizes the chicken and is full of flavor. The best part is that it only needs an hour to marinate instead of all day and all night, though you could leave the chicken in for a few hours if you have other things to do.

I like chicken thighs for dishes like this. The bone keeps the chicken juicy and tender, and the skin adds a nice crunch and keeps all the moisture in. Chicken thighs also present better than other cuts, as you can tell from my gorgeous pictures this week. However, I can attest that chicken breasts work just fine, since my dad prefers those and he thoroughly enjoyed his meal too. Just watch your cooking time since the chicken breasts dry out much more easily.

Before roasting, the chicken gets topped with a cranberry relish. It consists of fresh cranberries, more balsamic vinegar, a bit of brown sugar, more lemon juice, and seasoning. You can't substitute anything for the fresh cranberries, which is why this dinner is so great for this time of year. If you become addicted to this recipe and want to make it year-round, cranberries freeze unusually well, so I buy a few extra bags when they're available and freeze them for later use. The vinegar complements the tartness of the cranberries and brings the dish together since it matches the marinade, as does the lemon juice. The brown sugar is necessary to counter all the tart ingredients in the relish and the marinade, so add more to taste if it's exceptionally acidic.

Sides are just as important as the protein, and this couscous certainly stands up to the chicken. You could do rice or potatoes or pasta, but couscous are extremely easy and ready in just 5 minutes. Although the box typically says to cook the couscous in water, I use chicken broth for extra flavor. I also add some of the chicken drippings, again to tie the dish together. The great thing about couscous is that you just add it to boiling liquid, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few minutes until it's done. No watching to make sure it doesn't boil over, no checking to see if it's al dente, and no awkwardly pouring out boiling water into the sink without spilling pasta everywhere. Once the couscous is cooked, I fluff it and toss it with lemon juice, parsley, and red onion to bulk it up a bit and add some freshness to the dish.

To serve, I scoop the now-roasted cranberry relish onto each piece of chicken and serve it with a pile of couscous. You could add some green veggies on the side and a tasty dessert to complete the meal. This recipe also makes fantastic leftovers, so you can scale it up even more and avoid cooking to stay wrapped in your cozy blanket even longer.

5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 T Olive Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Paprika
3 T + 1 tsp Lemon Juice
5 T Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/2 lbs Chicken Breasts or 4-6 Chicken Thighs
1 Cup Cranberries
2 T Brown Sugar
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 Cup Couscous
3 T Chopped Parsley
2 T Minced Onion

Combine the garlic, olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, 2T lemon juice, 3T balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and marinate for 1-6 hours.

Combine the cranberries, remaining 2T balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 400F and grease a large baking dish.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken skin-side down (if using skin-on chicken) and sear until browned, about 4-6 minutes per side. Transfer to the baking dish and top with the cranberry mixture. Roast for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth and 2T chicken drippings to a boil in a small pot. Add the couscous, cover, turn off the heat, and let steam for 5 minutes. Fluff and toss with the remaining 1T lemon juice, parsley, red onion, and salt and pepper.

Serve the chicken with the relish over the couscous.

Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Chasing the Seasons

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