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Monday, March 19, 2012

Chicken with Juniper Berries and Red Bell Pepper Sauce

juniper berry sauce chicken


Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (BSCBs) can get rather boring so I try to stir up an interesting sauce on and off. They can be tricky to cook - they dry out and get rubbery if not watched closely (and that has happened many times in my kitchen).

Much like hard boiled eggs (which I am glad to say turns out just right every time thanks to the kitchen timer and Keys To Good Cooking by Harold McGee), BSCBs need to be timed closely for a juicy moist cooked texture; also a close watch on the inside temperature is quite helpful.

I found the tips from this article, along with brining/marinating, manages to result in fairly juicy yet fully cooked BSCBs; although sometimes I cook it under a medium-hot broiler while basting often which also turns out just fine.

I do have a tendency to overcook it and more often than not it turns out rathery stringy/rubbery/dry, in which case I save it in the freezer and chop/shred it to add it to soups and paella and such.

Anyway, the exciting thing about this recipe was that I finally got to use the dried Juniper Berries D found for me a while back. The berries tasted and smelled like the juniper bushes, instantly transporting me to lush shrub-filled lands. It is an acquired taste, the kids did not care for it at all, even though they did take the one big mandatory bite before they are allowed to reject any food.

Brine the BSCBs for as long as possible - from an hour to overnight in the fridge; cooking takes about 20-25 minutes, if the sauce is done in parallel.

Ingredients
for the juniper berries and red bell pepper sauce:
1 Tbsp dried Juniper berries (less for a milder flavor)
1 large roasted red bell pepper
2 to 4 dry red chilies ( or 1 Tbsp Sambal Oelek)
1 tsp Agave nectar
water as needed


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped/minced onions
1 cup cooking red wine (optional)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed and pounded a bit to uniform thickness, brined for as long as possible or at least an hour; cook the breasts whole or cut into thick chunks.

Preparation

  1. Juniper Sauce: Combine all the ingredients and blend to a fine paste; heat oil in a pan, add the onions and garlic, saute a bit; then add the sauce with a little bit of water and wine if using; cover and simmer on low heat
  2. Heat some oil in  a pan; cook the chicken breasts over medium high heat for about a minute, flip, turn heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes; check internal temperature at the thickest part; if the breasts are over 0.5 to 0.75 inches thick might need to cook  a bit longer; turn off heat, leave it covered on the pan for another 10 mins; if the internal temperature is 165° F to 170° F it is ready
  3. Drizzle the cooked BSCBs with the simmering sauce; optionally broil it for about 3 or 4 minutes before serving
  4. Garnish with some juniper berries, chives, spring onions or other fresh herbs, and serve warm with a side of wild rice and crisp Romaine lettuce salad

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