Apricot chicken with balsamic and pistachios

Your voice in the culinary conversation

Originally appeared in the November 1, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Giving credit where credit is due, I owe my colleague, chef Jodi Traub, a nod of thanks for this week’s recipe.  “I was looking for a new way to serve cornish game hens,” says Traub, who has a penchant for recipes with complicated flavor combinations.  “Brining,” she points out, “is the key to making the birds so succulent.”  But Traub also gives a nod to the original dish, explaining that she’d made some alterations to a recipe she’d discovered on a popular cooking website.

And in keeping with this perpetual cycle of recipe tinkering, that’s what I’ve done here:  replacing the game hens with chicken thighs and making my own minor variations.  Chicken thighs are woefully economic and, when properly prepared, succulent and flavorful.  I’ve also employed a bit of stock to add some cooking liquid to the braising mixture.

Traub often serves rice pilaf and steamed green beans as accompaniments for this dish, but I encourage you to devise your own favorite combination.  In fact, that’s what this is all about, right?—taking these recipes and coming up with your own gastronomic permutations and alterations.  So don’t be shy:  join the culinary conversation.


Apricot chicken with balsamic and pistachios

Serves 2

  • Brining solution: ½ cup sea salt plus 40 fluid ounces water
  • 4 medium chicken thighs
  • As needed, olive oil
  • ½ onion, small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar plus ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • ¾ cup chopped dried apricots
  • ¼ cup chopped, shelled pistachios
  • As needed, chopped fresh parsley
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  In a large pot, warm water and dissolve sea salt for brine.  Allow mixture to cool completely before pouring over thighs in a container large enough to cover thighs.  Soak in brine for at least 2 hours.  Afterwards, remove from solution and pat dry.

2.  Preheat oven to 400° F.  Heat olive oil in a high-side sauté pan; season skin-side of thighs with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, and pan-sear thighs (skin-side down) until exterior is golden brown and crispy.  Remove chicken from pan and reserve on plate.

3.  Add onions and cook until translucent and tender; add garlic and sweat briefly.  Add a bit of oil along with flour, stir to form a paste (called a roux).  Add in balsamic and water; stir in apricot preserves.  Return thighs (along with rendered juices) to pan and cover; place in oven for fifteen to twenty minutes, or until thighs juices are running clear.

4.  Remove braised thighs and keep warm.  Strain braising liquid through a colander or chinois and keep warm.  If you like, add a bit of chopped apricot to this sauce.  Serve thighs with sauce, and garnish with chopped apricot, parsley, and pistachios.

Whole wheat spaghetti with kale and pistachios

All hail kale

Originally appeared in the October 25, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

One of my favorite combinations is kale tossed with pasta; and to further accent the health benefits the aforementioned member of the cabbage species, I’ve selected whole wheat spaghetti for this week’s installment.  This is an ideal time for this sort of dish—it’s hearty yet healthy, savory and full of flavor.  The pistachios add a touch of crunch and a salty hint of bitterness.

Because the kale is so sturdy, I recommend tearing out the center rib before slicing.  When it comes to slow-steaming the leaves, you want to make sure you soften the kale without overcooking it, as overdoing it will not only damage the color but (like most heat-abused vegetables) deteriorate the nutritional value.  That being said, there is some research indicating that some varieties of this species of kale can withstand steaming and other gentle cooking techniques with little to no detriment to tis nutritional composition.

Use chicken stock or water to sloe-steam the kale.  And of course, if you’d like to make a switch with the butter, you can simply substitute olive oil.  Garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a scatter of pistachios, and you have a pasta dish ideal for a brisk October evening.

Whole wheat spaghetti with kale and pistachios

Serves 2

  • 5 – 6 large leaves of kale, center ribs removed a leaves sliced
  • Roughly 8 fluid ounces low-sodium chicken stock
  • 6 – 7 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (or pasta of choice)
  • 1 clove garlic, rough chop
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • As needed, grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons shelled, rough-chopped pistachios
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large sauté pan; add kale and toss in hot oil to coat sliced leaves.  Add 2 – 3 ounces of chicken stock, lower heat to a simmer, and cover pan.  Repeat this process by stirring and adding stock to gently steam the kale until tender (you may not need all the stock).

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook pasta to al dente.  Drain well.

3.  Once tender and liquid has completely evaporated from pan, remove kale and reserve.  IN same pan, melt butter slow and allow to brown slightly.  Add crushed red pepper and garlic.  Once garlic is aromatic, pour in pasta and coat in butter; add kale and toss to coat.  Stir in parmesan.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  At service, garnish plates with chopped pistachios.

Published in: on October 27, 2012 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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