Marmalade & Balsamic Vinegar Chicken
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I don’t tend to prepare a lot of recipes by celebrity chefs. There are a few reasons for this, but one of the big ones is that I want to try and focus on developing new recipes without getting too caught up in someone else’s. It’s easy enough to get caught up just looking at Chef So-and-So’s new book (all the while thinking “I wish I’d thought of that”), and the world does not need to watch me attempt to cook my way through it. But once in a while, something catches my eye and I just have to take the plunge.
This superb and surprisingly simple chicken dish is adapted with just a few modifications from a recipe by Rachael Ray. I was drawn to it because the idea of partnering marmalade and balsamic vinegar seemed… interesting, yes, but also a bit shocking. We’re talking about two very powerful flavours being used as the basis for an entire dish – flavours that are not famous for combining. But I make my own marmalades, and I had a jar (made with Seville oranges of course!) staring at me and begging to be used. On top of that, I had to put something together for some friends and it needed to be dairy-, egg-, and wheat-free thanks to some major allergies. I figured I’d give it a shot.
I don’t know exactly why this recipe works, but boy does it work. The flavours, while bold and intense, compliment each other surprisingly well. The bittersweet marmalade plays against the tangy sourness of the vinegar, and the whole thing has a really wonderful orange flavour while avoiding the cloying sweetness of savoury citrus dishes like duck a l’orange. On top of that, it is (as mentioned above) completely free of wheat, eggs and dairy, so long as you choose your chicken stock accordingly. Perhaps most pleasantly of all, it’s shockingly healthy. So, thanks for the idea Rachael.
This recipe is modified from the original in a few ways. I halved the balsamic vinegar to let the marmalade stand out a bit more and to balance the two ingredients better; while I like the taste of balsamic vinegar, I find that too much of it can easily overpower a dish. I also substituted a series of spices for the poultry seasoning called for in the original. This second change is not strictly necessary (especially if you have a good poultry seasoning), but it does allow you to tweak and balance the flavours to better suit your personal tastes. If you’re looking to speed this up a little bit, feel free to swap out the herbs (with the exception of the rosemary) for an equal volume of poultry seasoning. Lastly, there’s less chicken stock in this version – it simply didn’t seem necessary given that the chicken is moist and the final sauce is reduced anyway.
The balsamic vinegar called for in this dish is the thin (and relatively inexpensive) balsamic vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena), and not the thicker (and much more expensive) condiment balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale). Despite the similarity in name, the two are not really interchangeable. If you use thick condiment balsamic vinegar in this dish, it will over-sweeten and overpower the final product. Happily, this is one of those situations where you get to use the cheap stuff. With that in mind, try to get the best quality marmalade you can find. Many inexpensive commercial varieties are far too sweet (they can be up to 70% sugar). You want to seek out and use a good quality marmalade with a proper balance of sweet and bitter. I used my own Seville orange marmalade for a classic flavour, but you could substitute marmalade made from any citrus variety that you might prefer.
The original Rachael Ray recipe also calls for either chicken breasts or thighs. I personally would only use thighs, as breast portions are harder to cook evenly and are likely to end up on the dry side.
You can serve this on its own or, for a more decadent meal, with a good risotto. Funnily enough, I made this many months before posting it, and I didn’t notice that the original recipe recommends lemon risotto as a partner – and as luck (or subliminal messaging) would have it, I just posted an awesome lemon-herb risotto a few days ago.
Not just good news, GREAT news! Low in fat, high in protein, very low in sodium, and under 350 calories per person.
Nothing on its own, but pay attention to the sides and servings. If you serve this with risotto (as shown) you’re going to amp the fat and salt levels up quite a lot, turning this dish from healthy option into a richer treat.
Make sure you trim the meat well, as chicken thighs can start out quite fatty. Choose a good quality marmalade and look at the labels when purchasing, as many commercial varieties are exceptionally sugary. Serve with a green salad if you’re looking for a healthy, low-calorie side.
No Ingredient Pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 kg boneless skinless chicken thighs trimmed of fat
- 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
- black pepper freshly ground, to taste
- 1/4 tsp dried sage
- 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- pinch celery seeds
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves only, chopped
- 1/3 cup marmalade (see note)
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup chicken stock preferably low-sodium
- 2-3 scallions green and white portions, chopped
Combine the sage, marjoram, thyme, nutmeg, and celery seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and crush/mix. In a separate container, combine the marmalade, balsamic vinegar, and chicken stock and set aside.
Season the chicken with the spice blend from step 1 and salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat for about 45 seconds, or until the oil begins to ripple on the surface. Add the chicken and sear for about 5 minutes (take care not to crowd the chicken or it won't brown properly - work in batches if necessary). Turn the chicken over (it should release from the pan fairly easily), sprinkle with rosemary, and brown for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is nearly cooked through and still moist.
Once the chicken is finished, pour the marmalade mixture over the meat and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to a relatively thin sauce/glaze.
Remove the chicken and serve immediately over wilted bitter greens (e.g. arugula) or with a starchy side like risotto. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the chopped scallions.
Use a good quality marmalade with a proper balance of sweet and bitter. I used my own Seville orange marmalade for a classic flavour, but you could substitute marmalade made from any citrus variety that you might prefer.
Note that other than the rosemary, salt, and pepper, the other spices (sage, marjoram, thyme, nutmeg, and celery seed) can be replaced with 1 tsp of poultry seasoning. If you do elect to go this way, make sure you're using a good, fresh seasoning blend.