Chicken in a Time of Figs

Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times  |  Updated: July 18, 2017 11:20 IST

Chicken in a Time of Figs
When ripe figs are as plentiful as they are now, I use them in savory dishes, not just sweet ones. I like figs quickly grilled or seared, and sometimes I cook my figs long enough to render them a bit jammy. It takes only a few minutes for this to happen.

Cooked figs go beautifully with meat, especially a griddled or pan-cooked chicken breast. I always seem to circle back to feta when I’m working with figs in a savory dish, which is the case here. I love the flavor of the earthy, salty cheese against the subtle, sweet fruit. Chicken breasts provide a perfect vehicle.

First, I marinate the chicken breasts in olive oil with a little garlic, then I cook them in olive oil in a hot cast-iron skillet. Once I’ve cooked the chicken breasts on one side, I flip them over and arrange the feta on top. By the time the breasts are done, the feta has softened.

I stash the finished breasts in a warm oven while I quickly deglaze the pan and cook the figs in reduced red wine so that everything is warm when I put it all together. The figs, seasoned with thyme, take on great flavor from the deglazed chicken bits and from the reduced wine. This dish is simple enough for every day and special enough for a dinner party.

Chicken Breasts With Feta and Figs
Yield: 4 servings

4 5- to 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup red wine
8 fresh figs, cut in small dice
1 tablespoon honey
Rosemary sprigs for garnish (optional)Preparation:
1. One at a time, place each chicken breast between pieces of plastic wrap or parchment and lightly pound with a mallet until it is 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Chicken breasts should be of uniform thickness.

2. Place chicken breasts in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss with rosemary, garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Place oven on lowest setting, around 200 degrees. Cook the chicken: Heat a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat for 5 minutes. Add remaining olive oil to pan and reduce heat to medium-high. Turn over chicken breasts in marinade to coat them, then add them to the pan, rounded side down. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on one side, until cooked halfway through.

4. Turn chicken breasts over and carefully arrange feta on top, dividing it equally among the 4 breasts. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves over feta on each breast. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, until breasts are cooked through. Feta will warm but will not melt. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep in warm oven while you cook the figs.

5. Add wine to pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom. Boil wine until it has reduced by half, then add figs, honey and remaining thyme. Cook, stirring, until figs break down and begin to look jammy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

6. Serve chicken breasts with fig compote on side and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Comments© 2015 New York Times News Service

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