Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Giving Tree

As I write this post, a loud chainsaw is in the process of cutting down the 50 year old red oak tree- about 1/3 sick & 2/3 dead- in our backyard. As the branches come down, one by one, it eventually became a large tree with no branches. Then it was a large trunk with no treetop, now it's just a stump. As I watched the process, I started to feel a combination of delight, as our yard became a lot sunnier - and a real tug at my heart at the end of its existence. It had a purpose for 50 years, and now it's gone. It brought a lot of shade and beauty to the backyard in its heyday. Just yesterday, we were so worried that big branches would fall on our roof and cause damage due to the heavy windstorms we've experienced. Now, large chunks of trunk are laying on our ground looking a lot less mighty.

What does all of this have to do with healthy cooking, do you ask? I think that my love of real food, whether it's harvested on a farm, plucked from one's garden or born from a tree, has definitely deepened my interest in learning where exactly my food originates from.

Hubby just brought home a jar of Del Monte SunFresh Mangoes. Before popping the top, I wondered which country these mangoes came from - it certainly doesn't say anywhere on the jar. It could be Brazil, but it also could be as far as Thailand. I've never even seen a mango tree in real life. I looked down at the jar and I felt very disconnected to it. Even though it was fruit, it just felt artificial to me.

Still, the mangoes provided the natural sweetening agent for a homemade barbeque sauce for last night's dinner.

Chicken with Mango Barbeque Sauce by Ellie Krieger

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 red pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
1 mango, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 to 3 jalapenos, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 pound each)

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the red peppers, garlic, salt and pepper, and allspice and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the vinegar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and tomato sauce and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer the mixture into a bender and add the mango and jalapeno. Blend until smooth.

Put 1 cup of the barbeque sauce into a sealable plastic bag with the chicken and marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat the broiler. Put the chicken on a broiler pan and discard the marinade. Broil the chicken on high for about 12 minutes, turning once. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Spoon about 1/2 cup of barbeque sauce over the meat slices and serve.

  • If you haven't embraced the concept of "mise en place" translated as "everything in its place" this recipe is a good place to start. I usually do it everytime. For some reason, I skipped the important step of having everything chopped and measured before the oil hits the skillet and I paid for it dearly! For one thing, dark sticky molasses made its way onto the floor, cabinets and my shirt while I tried to squeeze a lime with one-handed. It was not a pretty sight. Mise en place from now on. Live it. Love it.
  • I made the sauce without the jalapenos. I didn't have any on hand and honestly, I really don't like them. However, it does provide some heat that balances the sweet. I guess next time I'll add some red pepper flakes.
  • My only complaint about this dish is I still can't figure out how to make chicken stay moist after the broiler. The chicken was far from dry, just not succulent. Maybe it's because I always use very lean chicken? I guess a little fat might go a long way (gasp!)

1 comment:

Kitchen Queen Victoria said...

This looks like it would be great for summer, with the mangos (I buy them by the case at Sam's). Mmmmm... I can feel the sweltering summer heat already.

About keeping the chicken from drying out during cooking, try bone-in chicken breasts with skin. After broiling, remove the skin and bones and slice, serving with the sauce. The skin adds little fat to the finished dish (I've read this in so many places that I have started to believe it!). But if you really want to take the skin off, don't remove the bones until after cooking. For some reason, I've found that this keeps the breast meat from overcooking even though it's a royal pain to debone them (especially after they are simmered in a thick tomato-ey sauce-- talk about a mess!).


hey, it sounds as though you're maneuvering in the kitchen now!