Maple-Balsamic Chicken with Saffron Rice Pilaf

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (can substitute 4 boneless, skinless breasts if you like)
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • ¾ tsp paprika
  • ¾ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can chicken broth (14 ½ oz)
  • 1/3  cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (did you know that the quality of balsamic vinegar is denoted by the number of grape leaves on the label?  Who knew!?)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 3 tbsp. chunky peanut butter

Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt, paprika, and thyme.  Saute in hot oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Stir in chicken broth and next 4 ingredients and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.  Reserve liquid in skillet.  Whisk in peanut butter to the reserved liquid and boil over medium-high heat, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened.  Spoon evenly over the chicken.

Because I like to keep things simple, I use packaged saffron yellow rice mix.  You can find this either in the ethnic foods section of most grocery stores or in the rice/beans/boxed dinners section.

Maple Brined Turkey

  •  8 quarts water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 2 bunches fresh thyme
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 Turkey

Place all the ingredients, except the turkey, in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool.  Line a large stockpot (or a new 5 gallon bucket) with an unscented garbage bag and put the turkey into the pot. Pour the cooled brine over the bird, close and seal the bag, and refrigerate overnight (I leave mine in the garage).Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the turkey from the brine, dry well, and discard the brine.   I like to slather the bird with a butter that complements the brine, so for this recipe I would make a maple butter (whip butter and add maple syrup until the butter “glistens” and is easily spreadable).  Using your fingers, rub the turkey UNDER the skin with the maple butter.  You can separate the skin from the meat at the breast and over the back and push your hand as far in as possible to place butter on the bird.  Once you’ve coated the bird as well as you can under the skin, rub the skin with a little bit of the maple butter, too.

Roast the turkey as you normally would, approximately 15 minutes a pound. Let stand for 30 minutes before carving.