Ever tasted a kumquat?
My granddaughter Nina bit into one the other day, assuming that that tiny oval orange fruit was some sort of miniature tangerine or orange or clementine.
Boy was she surprised!
Kumquats are bitter. Sure, some people eat them raw, maybe sliced into salad. But they’re really best for cooking, especially in a stew or braised chicken dish like the one in the photo. Or cooked into chutney. And they are really really delicious candied, when you get that bitter and sugary sweet all at once in the middle of your mouth. OHHHHHHH I could eat a pound of it right now.
I first found out about kumquats when I was a little girl and my family had dinner once a week at our local Chinese restaurant. Dessert was always either ice cream (vanilla, chocolate or, for some who-knows-why reason, pistachio!) or fortune cookies.
Or preserved kumquats from a jar. They were whole (seeds and all) and served with the thick, ultra-sweet syrup they were cooked in.
They gave me the shivers.
They still do. Bottled kumquats are mushy-soft and way too sweet and the bitter tang tastes like rust and fights too much with all the sugar. There’s no balance.
In those days you couldn’t get fresh kumquats anywhere. Not anywhere near where we lived anyway.
But you can today. And they are right smack in their seasonal peak at the moment.
Most of the stores I’ve been to sell them in a box, like strawberries. Our local Fairway market sells them by the pound so you can buy as much or as little as you wish and pick your own.
I can’t remember when I got up the nerve to try kumquats again, but lately I’ve been way deep into kumquat recipes. The chicken dish is one of the better experiments.
Braised Chicken with Kumquats
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large chicken breasts or whole legs (or a combo)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons honey
1 pound peeled and cut up butternut squash
12-15 halved fresh kumquats, seeds removed
6 large dried figs or pitted prunes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the chicken to a dish and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute. Add the ginger, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne pepper and stir the ingredients. Pour in the chicken stock and honey and bring the liquid to a boil. Return the chicken plus any accumulated juices to the pan. Spoon some of the pan fluids and vegetables over the chicken. Cover the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the squash, kumquats and figs. Cover the pan and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through, turning the pieces occasionally. Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and surround the chicken with the vegetables. (Keep warm, if desired, in a preheated 250 degree oven.) Place the pan over high heat and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle with mint and serve. Makes 4 servings