I know people who own shoeboxes full of chicken recipes, enough to make your head swim. Now I am about to inflict another one on you. This one came from my friend Priscilla Fort who winters in Bradenten, Fla., and I am sure she took her chicken recipe collection with her and the cat, but not before she shared this one with me.
It is common practice these days to remove the skin from chicken breasts (or to buy them skinless) which puts them at terrible risk of being dry. I understand about avoiding fat and not eating the skin. However, in a recipe like this one, it is possible to bake the chicken skin on, and then remove it before adding the sauce. That way the chicken isn’t naked in the baking pan with no place for moisture to go except into the oven air.
You know that bones provide flavor, even if they are a little inconvenient to work around on the plate. Chicken breasts are also a lot cheaper with the bones in and skin on, so why not save money and add flavor all at once?
The almonds will be more flavorful if you toast them in a fry pan before adding them. Even at the high oven temperature they will not brown in the recommended cooking time. Also, I think the breadcrumbs would taste better if they were toasted in a little butter even though that would add fat. Let your conscience and taste be your guide.
The recipe calls for dried cranberries, which are certainly wonderful, but if you are lacking them, substitute raisins. Plump the cranberries in a little water to add moisture and flavor. Also, panko, the Japanese-style breadcrumbs, are good and very crunchy, and easily found (in Maine you can get them at Renys) but I use plain dried breadcrumbs, too. Shallots and leeks add a nice touch, and I grow both and use them as long as I have them, and then I switch to my winter-stored onions.
With all those substitutions, I suppose you can’t call it Cranberry Almond Chicken anymore. You can just call it dinner.
Cranberry Almond Chicken
Yields 4 servings
4 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup maple syrup
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup slivered almonds
½ cup panko or dried breadcrumbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly coat a baking pan with oil and lay the chicken breasts in it to bake for 20 minutes. While the chicken is baking, chop the shallots and the leeks. Combine vinegar, syrup, shallots, leeks, nutmeg and cranberries in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook to reduce by about half and add butter. Pour over the chicken and bake another 5 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is done.