Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rosemary Brown Sugar Chicken

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.
  1.  In a medium sized bowl, toss chicken with all the other ingredients until well combined.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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!


  1. Thank you Tagan AGAIN for bringing up something I haven't tried right exactly when I'm tiring of my own standbys!

  2. Tagan, this sounds delicious! I've been looking for something different to do with the last of my live rosemary, so I'm adding this to my weekend menu for sure. thanks for sharing!

  3. This sounds great, Tagan! I was just trying to figure out what to do with the chicken for tonight, and this sounds easy and delicious.

  4. This will be a great twist for my night I cook chicken for the masses!! Lots of rosemary still in my garden...and tons of brown sugar in the pantry!!

  5. Yay! I love putting an idea out into the virtual world and getting responses back from the real world! So glad you all jumped on this! Happy Cooking!-Tagan

  6. This sounds really simple quick & yummy-always looking for more non-boring options for chicken breasts! My foolproof easy chicken dish uses a whole pint of cherry tomatoes halved, tossed with a generous helping of olive oil, tablespoon balsamic vinegar, whatever fresh herbs you have, chopped (used rosemary & tarragon the other night) couple garlic cloves, lots of kosher salt. mix together in a bowl and pour over chicken pieces placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425 till the chicken skin is brown and bubbly, and tomoatoes are carmelized. this is so easy, & you can add whatever else (olives, capers, onions, a little diced pancetta). It ALWAYS comes out good! As for thanksgiving-doing salted (koshered) and roasted turkey, stuffing with italian sausage, fennel, & ricotta, and this super easy cranberry sauce with red wine, pomegranate molasses, & fresh mint, amongst other things. Can't wait to eat!!!

  7. wow Sabrina, that sounds fabulous! I think you need to start your own food blog since you don't get to do this in that retail space you are always dreaming of. I love the pomegranate molasses in the cranberry sauce. yum!

  8. so tonight we're bringing this to buffalo wings. yippee!