Japan Eats

Recipe: Tangy Pantry Chicken

Kupa Hokianga prepares a delicious Valentines dish

I recently took the opportunity to clean out my kitchen pantry. The TV was on in the background, tuned to a Discovery Channel show about waste reduction and simple low-budget eco ideas. The discarded pantry items were on the table waiting to be disposed of, but after listening to the TV program, I began to feel a little guilty. Surely I could do something with this food.

I want to share just one of the recipes I made that day: a B-class gourmet chicken breast glazed in rosemary, marmalade, and chilli-infused honey; a perfect Valentine’s meal for two.

Unsure what to do with that leftover marmalade or honey? Combine with chilli to make a glaze.

You will love it. It’s a simple, inexpensive recipe using basic ingredients you may find in the fridge at home, takes only minutes to prepare, and looks and tastes fantastic.

Chicken is an inexpensive meat in Japan. I generally find it’s great value and, when prepared well, versatile, moist, and tasty. In my pantry, I found a jar of honey that had crystallized, cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, and several almost empty jars of  jam and marmalade.

Here’s my really simple recipe for Tangy Pantry Chicken

The good thing is that any ingredient can be substituted with whatever your have. The objective is to get a sweet glaze syrup.
Chilli and honey balance really well and I actually use them in yogurt desserts; rosemary and honey also pair perfectly with chicken, but sage or thyme would also do.

I used three chicken breasts, but any chicken cut will be fine.

Check your cupboards for:

  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of marmalade (or any sweet fruit jam or cranberry sauce)
  • 1 dry or fresh chilli
  • 1 lemon or any citrus fruit
  • Fresh rosemary or a woody herb
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (if you have it)
  • Seasoning and olive oil or vegetable oil

(Quantities may vary depending on the viscosity of your ingredients.)

Preparing the chicken:

  • After removing the retail wrapping, it’s best to reduce the moisture from the meat. I usually do this by placing the cuts, lightly salted, on a draining rack and leave them in the fridge for 2 – 3 hours, but if you’re in a hurry, just dab them with a paper towel.
  • Place the chicken in a large bowl, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and drizzle on a little oil. Grab the fresh rosemary and massage the chicken using your hands. Allow it to rest while you prepare the oven and glaze.

Next preheat your oven and roasting dish to 190°C (about 375°F). A heavy-based pan works best.

The Glaze:

  • In a small pot on a low heat, spoon in the honey, fine chop the chilli and infuse the honey with it. (You could also use any citrus zest.) Heat and stir for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Next, spoon in the marmalade or jam and continue to heat the mixture for one or two minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat before it begins to boil or caramelize. You just want a free-flowing combined mixture.

Warning: Do not be tempted to put your fingers into the honey mixture. It will burn you.

  • Drain any blood or moisture that the chicken has released from the bowl, then pour about 70% of the hot glaze mixture over your chicken. Using a spoon or tongs, toss your chicken so the glaze covers all the surfaces. Allow it to sit for a few minutes.
  • When the oven is hot, drop in your glazed chicken – skin side up – and set a timer for ten minutes. After ten minutes, use a spoon or a pastry brush to coat or baste the chicken with the pan juices. Repeat every five minutes until the meat juices run clear.
  • Finally, reheat the remaining honey glaze in the small pot and stir in a table spoon of brown sugar (or soy sauce), reducing it so it becomes a thick syrup. Take the roasting dish from the oven and remove any watery pan juices so only the cooked chicken is left. Coat the chicken with the honey and brown sugar glaze and roast it for 2 – 3 minutes or until the surface caramelizes.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven, cover it, and rest it on a pre-warmed plate for five minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little zest, then serve it hot, drizzled with pan jus, or wrap it and have it cold in a fresh mint and pineapple salad the next day.

A jam and honey glaze can be made up in advance and kept for weeks in your fridge. Enjoy it on sliced grilled ham, pork chops, or grilled sausages, even on char-grilled slices of fruit such as nashi, apples, pineapples, or peaches – the possibilities are endless.