Today's recipe is one to have tucked away.
It makes use of key ingredients to have on hand -- boneless, skinless chicken breasts, bacon, Dijon mustard and maple syrup.
I know -- I had you at bacon.
Who doesn't love bacon? Pardon the cliche, but it's now as American as apple pie. And before long, someone will put it in apple pie -- if they haven't already.
In fact, the average American eats nearly 18 pounds of bacon per year.
Never be without bacon in your home was one slice of advice Lucinda Scala Quinn offered up in her 2009 book "Mad Hungry -- Feeding Men and Boys: Recipes, Strategies & Survival Techniques" (Artisan, $18.95).
"You can always whip something up if you can layer it with bacon," Quinn said in an interview.
Quinn is the executive director of food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. In the next few weeks Quinn's "Mad Hungry Cravings" (Artisan, $27.95) will be out. In her latest book, Quinn shares her take on ethnic restaurant and takeout recipe favorites.
Not only is bacon an ingredient in today's recipe, the chicken is cooked in the leftover bacon fat. (I didn't say the recipe was low-fat.)
You can use any favorite chopped bacon in this recipe, but using pepper bacon gives the Dijon sauce a peppery zip. The sauce, paired with that yummy bacon flavor, turns out sweet and salty and has a little tang to it.
The cooked and chopped bacon also becomes an ingredient in the couscous, which is cooked in the same skillet. But the finished dish takes on different flavor profiles; it doesn't all taste like bacon.
If you're not familiar with couscous, there are two varieties: the regular grain-like couscous and the pearl couscous.
The regular couscous is found near the pasta and rice in most grocery stores. It takes just 5 minutes to make.
Pearl couscous is pasta that looks like tiny beads. It takes about twice as long (10 to 12 minutes) to cook as the grain-like couscous.
The pearl couscous is sometimes called Mediterranean or Israeli couscous; some stores stock it in the ethnic foods aisle. You can find it in plain or tricolor varieties.
Use either couscous for this dish, but the pearl couscous starch adds a heartier texture and flavor.
Maple-Dijon chicken with bacon couscous
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 slices bacon, diced
4 (4- to 5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 1/4 cups fat-free, low- sodium chicken broth
1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous, or regular couscous
1 tablespoon parsley, freshly chopped
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
In a small bowl, whisk the mustard, maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from skillet and return pan to medium-high heat until fat shimmers. (If you don't have 2 tablespoons of fat in the skillet after frying the bacon, supplement with vegetable oil.)
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken until golden brown and meat registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to platter, brush with mustard mixture, and tent loosely with aluminum foil. (You might not use all of the mustard mixture depending on the size of the chicken breasts.)
Add shallot to now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer. Stir in couscous, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir cooked bacon, parsley and vinegar into couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve couscous and chicken with any remaining Dijon sauce on the side.
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 490 calories (18 percent from fat), 10 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 46 grams carbohydrates, 54 grams protein, 818 milligrams sodium, 129 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.
Adapted from Cook's Country magazine, January 2013 issue.
Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
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