Week 32, Meal 2: Sweet and sour chicken

Chef Brian’s pretty awesome at “magic tricks,” or at least that’s what I call them. Every once in a while, he’ll introduce a new technique to me that blows my mind. Some of my favorite tricks of his include corn pudding and salsa verde broth; Week 32, Meal 2: Italian Sweet and Sour chicken over sauteed kale with balsamic raisins and toasted pine nuts adds a new one to the repertorie: reconstituted raisins, plumped up fat and juicy with acidic balsamic vinegar.

Paired with a sticky glaze on skinless chicken thighs, the tart raisins provide perfect contrast in this sweet, sour and nutty dish.

The Recipe (Yield: 2 servings)

1 T  and 1 t olive oil
4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, trimmed of any excess fat
1/2 yellow onion, small diced
1 small carrot, peeled and small diced
1 stalk celery, small diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c red wine
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c orange juice
3 T honey
2 T sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and sliced thin
1/4 cup raisins
1 t balsamic vinegar
1/4 c water
2 T pine nuts, toasted
salt and pepper, as needed

It’s easiest to break up preparation into two parts: the chicken and the kale. First, take care of the chicken and the sauce.

Start by seasoning the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In a large shallow pan, heat 1 T of olive oil over medium-high heat and sear the chicken until golden brown on the skin side. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, add the carrot, celery, garlic and onion, and saute until the veggies start to brown, about 7-8 minutes. In a measuring cup, combine the wine, red wine vinegar, orange juice and honey. Deglaze the pan with the mixture.

Bring to a boil and then reduce the sauce by half.

When the sauce is ready, add the chicken thighs back into the pan, raw side down, along with the toasted almonds. Note: To toast the nuts, swirl them around in a hot pan for 30 seconds to a minute, until they become slightly golden and fragrant.

Continue to reduce until the sauce is thick enough to lightly coat the chicken, and the chicken is cooked through–about 5 minutes.

For the kale, start by reconstituting the raisins. In a small pan over high heat, add raisins, balsamic vinegar and water. Reduce the liquid until nearly evaporated. The raisins will plump up. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1 t of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the kale, reconstituted raisins and toasted pine nuts. Cook 3-4 minutes until the kale is wilted and the raisins and pine nuts are mixed in well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To plate: Put half the kale mixture on each plate and top with 2 of the chicken thighs, coated with the sauce. Finish by topping it off with more of the sauce, veggies and almonds.

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