Ok, so I know that adding sugar and salt to food is exactly what us health-touting chefs are not supposed to endorse, but the combination of rosemary and brown sugar in this dish is irresistible, and perfectly healthy if you balance it out with some good veggies. When I worked as a private chef in Boston and NYC a number of years back, Rosemary Brown Sugar Chicken was one of my favorite standby dishes. I usually tossed it with seared apples and asparagus which was fabulous, but for a more seasonal meal, on this night I used a quick saute/roast of potatoes, carrots and squash with a little spinach on the side. A number of years ago, I was at the Union Sq. Cafe in NYC and they had a house-made rosemary brown sugar nut mix at the bar. I was tickled that they had come up with the same delicious combo as I had. My ego got a little culinary boost that day.
My Husband doesn't eat meat, so I made a roasted tofu and onion version of the dish for him. (That tofu looks good right!) A far cry from the mushy flavorless stuff some people imagine. If you need or want to change the sweetener in this dish, honey or maple syrup works well, and agave is also fine for folks watching their blood sugar levels.
Rosemary Brown Sugar Chicken (or tofu)
1 pound boneless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 to 4 Tablespoons brown sugar (or honey, maple syrup or agave)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, picked and finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
pinch black pepper
Vegetarian option: substitute 1 pound of tofu for the chicken, skip to #5 for instructions.
- In a medium sized bowl, toss chicken with all the other ingredients until well combined.
- Place a frying pan over medium-high heat and let it get very hot, but not smoking. Add a drizzle of oil, about a tablespoon, and then spread some of the chicken onto the pan in a single layer with space between the pieces. This is important so that the chicken sears and browns but does not steam.
- When the chicken is well browned on the bottom and you can see the meat cooking half way up the sides turn the pieces over. Cook for a minute more unitl cooked through. Give a quick stir around the pan to collect the caramelized sugars and rosemary and quickly remove the first batch of chicken to a shallow dish. Repeat the process with the second batch of chicken, and a third if you need to. You may need to lower the heat slightly after the first batch, but not too much, you want the meat to sear quickly.
- When the last batch of chicken has cooked, quickly toss all the chicken into the pan including any juices that may have dripped onto the dish. Sauté for 10 seconds to deglaze the pan and get the dark caramelized bits onto the chicken, not left behind in the pan.
- To cook the tofu: toss the tofu with all the other ingredients and enough oil to thinly coat it, about 3 Tablespoons. Place tofu topped with all seasonings on a lined baking sheet in a single layer and roast in a 400 degree oven, until browned, about 30 minutes. I cooked my onions in the caramelized bits in the frying pan from the chicken. If you want to make them vegetarian, slice 1 or 2 large onions, toss with a touch of oil and salt and pepper and roast on a lined baking sheet in the oven at the same time as the tofu. Toss together and enjoy with rice or roasted root vegetables.
Note: if you want to add sautéed apples to this dish, slice 2 firm apples into 1/4-inch wedges. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, 2 teaspoons brown sugar(optional), a finely chopped sprig of rosemary and salt and pepper. Sear in a frying pan using the same method described above. Cook before the chicken and set aside. Once the chicken is cooked toss in the apples. Chop and steam a bunch of asparagus or broccoli and toss with the chicken and apples for a delicious meal.
This poultry dish got me starting to think about Thanksgiving.
What are you planning? Please leave comments below!