Eric Akis: Plums add touch of sweetness to chicken dish

Eric Akis

Putting fruit in savoury dishes adds a balancing touch of sweetness, appealing colour and, of course, the fine flavour of the fruit you use. All those things proved true when cooking today’s roast chicken with plums recipe.

To make it, chicken thighs were tossed with olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic and rosemary, set in a roasting pan, and seasoned with salt and pepper and white wine. The chicken was then roasted 25 minutes.

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As the chicken cooked, prune plums were halved, pitted and tossed with a bit of balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. When the chicken had cooked 25 minutes, the plums were set in the pan. The chicken was roasted 20 minutes more, and then broiled a minute or two, to richen the colour of the skin.

The result is juicy chicken with appealing fruity, tangy, sweet and herbaceous flavours. The prune plums I used came from my neighbour’s tree. But, if you don’t have a local supply, at this time of year you’ll find B.C.-grown prune plums for sale at grocery stores and farmers markets.

Serve the chicken with steamed rice or rice pilaf, couscous or quinoa and today’s other recipe, green beans with blue cheese and walnuts.

The latter is a side dish whose bright green colour and taste nicely complements that of the chicken. It’s made by tossing hot, cooked greens with the items noted in the recipe’s name along with some honey, lemon juice and butter. You could make the beans while the chicken roasts with the plums.

Roast Chicken with Plums

Juicy chicken thighs and in-season plums combine in this late-summer-dish rich with palate-pleasing fruity, tangy, sweet and herbaceous flavours.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 to 50 minutes
Makes: four servings

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp dried

1 large garlic clove, minced

8 medium to large skin-on, bone-in, chicken thighs (about 1.1 kg)

* salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup white wine (see Eric’s options)

8 slightly under ripe, fresh prune or other small red plums, halved lengthwise and pitted (see Note)

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp brown sugar

* fresh rosemary sprigs , for garnish (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Combine oil, mustard, rosemary and garlic in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add chicken and toss to coat. Set chicken, skin-side-up, in shallow roasting pan (my pan was 16- x 11-inches) and season with salt and pepper. Pour wine into the pan. Roast chicken 25 minutes.

While chicken roasts, place plums in a second bowl and toss with the vinegar and sugar. When chicken has roasted 25 minutes, set plums, cut-side-up, alongside the chicken, drizzling any balsamic/sugar left in the bowl over top.

Roast chicken 20 minutes more, or until cooked through. Now turn your oven’s broiler on. Broil top of chicken a minute or two, to richen up the colour of the skin.

Serve the chicken right from the pan, garnished with rosemary sprigs, if using. When plated, top chicken with plums and pan juices.

Note: Once the plums are halved, if the pits are hard to remove, you could simply leave them in and remove them when cooked and eating them.

Eric’s options: If you don’t want to use wine, replace with 1/2 cup chicken stock. Also add a splash more balsamic vinegar to replace the acidity lost by not using wine. This recipe, and the beans below, could be halved if you’re only serving two. Just roast the chicken in a smaller pan.

Green Beans with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

B.C. green beans, boiled, drained and tossed with toasted walnuts and nuggets of blue cheese, along with some honey, butter and lemon juice.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: six to seven minutes
Makes: four servings

1⁄3 cup walnut pieces

2 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp butter

1/2 to 2/3 lb. green beans, trimmed

50 grams blue cheese, pulled into small nuggets, or to taste (see Eric’s options)

* salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the beans.

While it comes to temperature, place walnuts in a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook and stir walnuts until lightly toasted, about three to four minutes. Remove skillet from the heat, and then add the honey, juice and butter. Stir until butter is melted.

When water is boiling, add beans and cook until they are a vibrant green and just tender, about three minutes. Drain beans well, add them, and the cheese, to the skillet with the walnut mixture, season with salt and pepper, toss to combine and serve.

Eric’s options: If you don’t care for blue cheese, replace with coarsely crumbled feta cheese.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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