Hot and Sweet
The coldest weather of our winter (I hope!) has recently been to visit me and my family. That meant lots of time indoors, short trips outside with the dog that involved wrapping up like fleece and down-filled mummies, and comfort food to keep our spirits and bodies happy. Sure, soup made more than one appearance, but one of the most beloved meals of that arctic period gave us a blend of comfort food and the inspiration of a heat wave:
Now, the side dishes -- a warm Italian bread salad made with roasted root vegetables and slices of ripe, juicy pineapple -- were fantastic parts of the meal and roasting vegetables and making homemade chili-bacon croutons had the added benefit of allowing me to open the oven door post-cooking to give our home an extra blast of heat. But this meal was really about the chicken. Tender, juicy chicken breast got a quick bath in a sauce that took the flavors of chipotle, brown sugar, garlic, and bacon and blended them perfectly. Then the chicken got seared in a moderately hot pan, which allowed the sugars to caramelize and the smoky peppers to deepen their flavors. By the time the chicken got to serving plates, a rich pan sauce that I would happily eat with a spoon had developed. In the middle of a cold spell that saw wind chills well below 40° F, it was a blend of flavors and textures that had me and my family envisioning a Caribbean vacation.
You'd think that would be enough to sell anyone on the value of this recipe, but lest you still be on the fence, let me mention that the dish takes about 20 minutes to prepare. That's right: 20 minutes. My kid spends more time than that putting her pajamas on at night! While you can enjoy this dish anytime, it's perfectly happy being slotted into a quick weeknight meal in which you need to be started, eating, and finished with dinner in under an hour. Now how's that for valuable?
Before I close things up, let me say a thing or two about the heat in this dish. I call for chipotle hot sauce or finely minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. In my experience, hot sauce tends to actually be a bit milder than the mincing option offered here. If you have a family that loves turning the heat up to eleven, then go for it. Otherwise, the hot sauce option is likely to be milder and easier. I used Tabasco brand chipotle hot sauce and found it quite lovely. Additional hot sauce was provided at the table for my husband, who will turn the heat up to twenty if allowed. The good news about this recipe is that you can absolutely cater to your own preferences and are likely to fall in love with the result. I know we did!
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
- 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce or finely minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
Melt the bacon fat in a small, microwaveable bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, powdered garlic, and chipotle hot sauce. Place the mixture and the two chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag. Turn the bag to thoroughly coat the chicken with the sweet pepper sauce.
Heat the cooking oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet, reserving any additional sauce in the plastic bag. Cook for 6 minutes per side. Snip a corner of the plastic bag off and squeeze the remaining sauce over the chicken. Cover and cook an additional 6 minutes. Remove to a warm plate and spoon any pan juices over the chicken. Serve warm.
- Yields: 3-4 servings
- Preparation Time: 20 minutes