Photo credit Alex Harris
Once upon a time, several years ago, when my husband and I were first together, he invited his parents round to dinner for the first time. We looked like this back then, my husband and I.
That was twenty years ago, and I was still new to England, still getting used to the different stoves, ingredients and measurements, so my husband’s invitation threw me into a complete panic. Having used a large conventional Canadian electric stove I was struggling with the smaller and much fiercer fan ovens that cooked completely differently in England. I had already had my fair share of disasters. Frankly, I’d only ever really cooked desserts, cookies and sweets in Canada; my mom did the bulk of the main course cooking. The few recipes I had in my repertoire for main dishes were going to be hard to translate and I was terrified of being embarrassed not only in front of my husband, but particularly my in-laws.
I was working as a personal assistant in an office at the time, and I shared my anxiety with the junior secretary, a bubbly girl from Australia. She urged me not to worry and shared a recipe using apricot jam and dried onion soup mix that she guaranteed would impress. I was a bit skeptical as the ingredients didn’t really sound like they went together, but I was desperate, so I tried her recipe. Sure enough, it worked a treat. The in-laws raved – as did my husband. Even I had to admit it tasted fantastic.
Fast forward several years, and I’m not so sure about dried onion soup mix anymore. I worry about processed foods, so I decided to give one of my husband’s favourite dishes a healthy makeover. Okay, it’s not totally healthy as it does contain jam, but I used Bonne Maman, one of the nicest high fruit jams on the market over here. If I made homemade jam, I would have used that, but I have not quite gotten that far in my culinary evolution yet.
This dish is super easy, and the only real time it takes is sautéing the onions, and you can do that while the chicken cooks in the oven. The sweetness of the jam melds perfectly with the onions and gives an easy, no fail sauce that is perfect every time.
Apricot and Onion Chicken
4 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 onion, red if possible, peeled and finely sliced
½ cup good apricot jam, preferably with pieces of apricot in it
¼ cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (a blend of savory spices that usually includes rosemary, thyme, basil, savory and marjoram)
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Place the chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish, brush with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until no pink remains inside.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Gently sauté the onions for about fifteen minutes, or until they begin to soften. If you sprinkle them with a pinch of salt after they have been cooking for a few minutes, it will help with this process.
Turn up the heat a bit and add the chicken stock, scraping any bits of onion up off the pan to mix thoroughly. Add the jam, breaking it up with a fork if necessary, and cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is thick and syrupy. Be careful the sauce doesn’t start to catch or burn; turn the heat down immediately and remove the pan from the heat if it is threatening to do that. (It was hard to photograph this because of the steam, but this is the look you are going for.)
Add the cooked chicken breasts to the pan and turn lightly in the sauce. Serve the chicken breasts with the sauce spooned over top. This dish is lovely served with my Autumn Rice Pilaf or some couscous.