Often, it is the interplay of two ingredients (or, for the more adventurous cooks, a ménage-à-trois) that makes a dish a success. Sometimes, it is just the purity and freshness of the main component. But once in a while, it’s the funny one-off addition that sends what would otherwise be a serviceable weeknight dinner into the land of sublimity.
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I decided to make Chicken with Figs, Wine & Honey by eatboutique for the simple reason that someone brought me a lovely jar of their canned figs as a hostess gift recently, and they looked so gorgeous floating around in their amber liquid, I could not be stopped.
Of course, my inherent laziness caused me to immediately knee cap this recipe somewhat; I began to pound my weekly portion of chicken into the quarter-inch thickness as instructed, but then for some reason stopped. Maybe my arm got tired, maybe the dog was peeing on the floor and the rest of the members of my house mysteriously scattered to check the Idol results at that very moment. Maybe I decided to open a bottle of wine. Things happen. Chicken remained pudgy.
So, following the pan sauté, I moved on to my figs (whose jar was not marked so I can’t tell you if they were mission or not but I would not get caught up in labels, just use figs you like) for the five minute portion of the meal, at which point my house began to smell like a nice little road side French restaurant. Or something like that. (I should note that I tucked my under-pounded chicken into a 325-degree oven for a few minutes while I made my sauce, something you won’t have to do if you follow the recipe as written.)
In about 30 minutes, this dinner was on a nicely set table, at which point, my husband, in a move uncannily similar to eatboutique’s, began kvelling. (Look it up, non-Jews I believe say, “exclaimed with joy.”) The underlying dish is as simple as can be, but the fig lends such a distinct sweet kick, underscored with the wine, that it kicks the whole thing up into special dinner terrain.
“Is this, what do you call it, a braise or something?” he asked, purring a little as he took the next bite. I explained it was a more of a pan sauce. “Well this is about the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. Please make it again soon.”
Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken breast. Ask a question about this step.
Saute the chicken 4-5 minutes on either side until cooked through with a nice gold hue. Set chicken on plate to rest while you prepare the figs. Ask a question about this step.
In the same saute pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Place the figs in the pan, cut side down. Saute for 3-4 minutes, turning the figs occasionally, until slightly golden. Ask a question about this step.
Add the red wine, being careful to avoid splatters, as well as pinches of salt and black pepper, and honey. Quickly cook for 2-3 minutes until the red wine reduces into a loose syrup. Ask a question about this step.
Spoon the figs and red wine reduction over the chicken and serve immediately.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).