Tuesday, September 3, 2013

That Lonely Can of Crushed Pineapple

According to the stat-check here at Blogger, I had more Canadian readers in the last 24 hours than American ones.

So, to my northerly neighbors, thanks and good day, eh?!

(I admit to being terribly ignorant in the ways of Canadian culture.  I've been shaped by Bob & Doug McKenzie and a guy I went to college who would tell us he was "going to get his salad cut," i.e. the barber.)

And now, onto the real content of today's blog post.  This past weekend was Labor Day here in America....a holiday that celebrates people working.  And many Americans usually celebrate this holiday by...not working.  This usually just applies to government workers (schools, banks, courthouses, post offices, etc.) and some benevolent corporations and small businesses; however, most employees of service-related industries (foodservice, retail, etc.) ARE working (ironically) to serve those workers who have the day off.

Then, there are people like me.  I happened to have the day (most of the weekend, actually) off, but I still chose to work.  Work for me, when not serving and feeding other people, is testing recipes for my real place of employment.

This weekend, I was looking to get rid of a dusty 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple that had been idle in my lazy-Susan for (probably) the last six months. 

Well, idle no more!

This is what I call my Sweet & Spicy Pineapple Chicken.  And it went very well with a half-drank bottle of Tassel Ridge Iowa Edelweiss I happened to have come into possession of (Edelweiss: a popular, versatile Midwestern white grape, used to produce mostly Riesling-esque wines).

Follow me as I take you through its evolution:

Photos by Kirby Nelson, age 12

After trimming up six chicken breasts, I sliced a 2" deep pocket in each one (at about a 25 degree angle, maybe?...I'm no mathematician).  Then, I drained the pineapple, tossed it together with some cilantro before spooning it into each pocket.  Mind the overstuff - you want to be able to press the seam closed.

The next time I do this I will leave the cilantro out, because a.) the herb cooks down to an unappealing brownish color and b.) the flavor of the herb dominates the fruit, and I want the pineapple to shine.  I would not be adverse, though, to adding another fruit to the stuffing...say, papaya, mango, mandarin oranges, or even apple, would be super-yummy.

This is the spice mix that I crafted into a wet rub.  I'll include the recipe for it below.

I'm wearing gloves here because the rub's got some cayenne in it, and if I've got any kind of minor cuts or abrasions on my hands, it's gonna hurt.  I pressed the seams back together, and baked the breasts in my 350° oven for 30 minutes.  And they were good and spicy...but like I said, though, the cilantro dominated the sweet (which is why I'll eighty-six it next time).

I like to use ingredients in different ways (different to me, anyway), and instead of using this pineapple in a cake or dessert topping, I paired it with something savory and kicky.  

Now from my pantry, a dusty half-full box of Zante currants cries out for the same treatment.

Sweet & Spicy Pineapple Chicken
6 boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken breasts
16 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
2 Tbsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. allspice
1 ½ cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°F.  With a sharp knife (boning works best), slice, at an angle, a 1 ½” pocket in each breast.  Be careful not to slice through the meat entirely.

Spoon a tablespoon or two of the crushed pineapple into each pocket and press the seam closed.

Mix the last six ingredients into a paste and rub it over the stuffed breasts.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Internal temperature should reach 165° F.

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