My cousin Tri recently got married and his wife Tran just started a new job at a nail salon. Now he's the one who comes home first, so his new chore is cooking. He's been calling me regularly for advice on cooking healthy, easy meals for dinner. Last night, he came to visit and I showed him how properly marinating chicken the day before makes for a quick dish the following day.
The day before, I marinated skinless, boneless chicken breast with meat tenderizers (lemon, green papaya and yogurt), spices and flavorings (fennel seeds, star anise, cayenne pepper, whole grain mustard, Bourbon Barrel Foods pure cane sorghum, soy sauce and rosemary). The following day, I stuffed the chicken with finely diced Granny Smith apples for crunch and a hint of acidity. I baked the chicken in the oven, resting over chicken broth on a bed of sliced red onions. Tri will attempt to recreate the results at his home, and I hope you give it a try as well!
Servings: 4 servings
4 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, finely minced
¼ teaspoon star anise, freshly ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 lemons, zested and freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons papaya paste (see tips)
½ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons pure cane sorghum
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chicken stock, warm
1 red onion, sliced horizontally into 4 slices
4 tablespoons Bluegrass soy sauce (see tips)
2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, freshly cracked
1 tablespoon salted butter, melted
The day before...
Marinating the chicken:
Remove the fat around the bottom of the breasts if there is any. Wash the chicken breasts and pat them dry using paper towels. Make 3-4 deep diagonal incisions into the flesh of each piece using a sharp boning knife.
Rub the chicken with cayenne pepper, baking powder, papaya paste, fennel, rosemary, mustard, lemon zest, star anise and 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns. Rub evenly. Place the chicken in a large bowl or a sealable zip-top bag. Add the juice of 1 lemon, yogurt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Make sure the mixture penetrates and coats the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Remove the chicken 15 minutes before cooking to bring it back to room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon each of sorghum and olive oil and 3 tablespoons Bluegrass soy sauce.
Place one chicken breast on a cutting board. Drizzle with a little of the soy sauce mixture. Spread about 1 tablespoon diced apples evenly over the chicken. Carefully roll up the chicken breast tightly. Seal the stuffed chicken with twine. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts. Brush the chicken breasts with more soy sauce mixture.
Place the red onion slices in an oven-safe baking dish and top with the chicken pieces. Pour the chicken stock around the chicken.
Loosely cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining soy sauce, sorghum and butter. Open the oven and remove the aluminum foil. Brush the chicken with the mixture and continue baking for another 5 minutes.
Allow the chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
The chicken should have a dry outer layer and be very moist on the inside.
Garnish with fresh rosemary and lemon wedges.
I served the lemon rosemary chicken breasts with steamed basmati rice on the side.
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I also used Bourbon Barrel brand pure cane sorghum as a sweetener in the marinade. You could replace it with honey.
I use green papaya, baking powder, pomegranate and lemon juice as meat tenderizers to ensure moist and juicy meat. The papaya paste was Baji, my husband Lulu's late grandma's secret for tender and moist meat. Peel a green papaya. Grind the cubed papaya with seeds in a mini food processor; place about 2 teaspoons of papaya paste per slot in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes into sealable plastic bags and place back in the freezer.
I place the chicken breasts on a bed of sliced red onions and pour chicken stock at the bottom of the baking dish, so the meat remains moist and doesn't dry out. You could also use a rack instead if you're cooking a larger quantity.