To me, chicken is the “basic black dress” of food. Because, like a basic black dress, you can do all sorts of things with it.
You can dress chicken up or play it down. Make it humble or fancy. Cook it plain or add all sorts of stuff, like stuffing, fruits or vegetables. Make it mild or with lots of seasonings.
Chicken is so basic it goes with lots and lots of herbs, spices, condiments and other flavorings. It’s good with gravy or without. It looks different and tastes different depending on all these variables.
So, the other day I made a very simple recipe using chicken breasts and figs.
Fresh figs are in the stores for a really short time, every summer and into the fall. And if you’re like me, and like figs, now is the time to buy and use them. I knew they’d be perfect with chicken.
After I bought the figs I poached some, used some for salad and then roasted chicken breasts and added some figs to the pan for the last several minutes. I had some fresh thyme too, so I included that, sweetened the dish up with a little orange juice and gave it a little tang with some Balsamic vinegar.
Look how dark and rich this dish looks! Lots of rich, tangy-sweet sauce, perfect for steamed rice, cooked noodles or polenta.
I still have a few fresh figs left. Think I might grill them. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Baked Chicken with Fig-Orange-Balsamic Sauce
4 large chicken breast halves (bone-in) or whole legs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
8 large fresh figs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the chicken. Rub the skin with the vegetable oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. Place the chicken in a roasting or baking pan. Immediately reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees and roast for 15 minutes (you preheat to 400 degrees to give the chicken an immediate blast of high heat, but it needs to cook at 350 degrees after that). While the chicken is cooking, mix the chicken stock, orange juice, Balsamic vinegar, orange peel and thyme leaves in a small bowl. After the 15 minutes are up, pour the sauce over the chicken. Continue to roast the chicken for another 10 minutes. Baste and roast for another 10 minutes. Place the figs in the pan. Baste with the pan fluids. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and figs from the pan and keep them warm. Place the pan over high heat to boil the pan juices for 2-3 minutes until thickened slightly. Serve the chicken with pan fluids and roasted figs. Makes 4 servings