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An, Uh, Scape from the Heat?

July 19, 2011

Are we all sick of hearing about it? I may well be sick of saying it. Nonetheless, yes folks, it is indeed rather warm out these days. Lots of people are talking about meals that need not require heat. Or, cooking outside so as not to heat the kitchen (Uh, what’s the difference? If I’m cooking outside I’m dealing with the heat from the grill AND the weather).

For me, though, I get hot cooking anyway so I go for it. Within reason, of course. I was all “I don’t care about the heat, I’m gonna make a pot roast, low and slow, ‘cuz I’ve got all these great aromatics and veggies and this awesome beef arm roast…” Yeah, not so much. Though I think it may be more about being tied to the kitchen for all those hours as well, and, frankly, I ain’t got that much time right now. So, I go to one of my summertime standbys: Pan-roasted chicken breasts with sauteed grape (or cherry) tomatoes and garlic scapes on a bed of perfumed couscous. It’s light, easy, makes the house smell great and, yes of course, tastes like summer.

Photo courtesy Susan Skovbo

Scapes are a new old favorite. I’ve had them in dishes from restaurants in the past, but until recently I’d never cooked with them. I cheated myself. They are fun. But, this is coming from someone who actually likes to trim french beans (I love the snap). Scapes do that for me too. And (I even freaked out the grower when I told him this) I would eat a few raw whilst I prepped them for this dish. These are from Swede Lake Farms (globalgarlic.org). Tasty.

What you will need: (serves 2)

2 Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

1 cup or so of garlic scapes cut into 3/4 inch or so pieces.

Olive oil

1 cup couscous

1 cup water

Whatever dried herbs/fresh herbs/aromatics to perfume the couscous and stuff under the skin of the chicken. I will often use herbs de provence, dried lemon or orange peel.

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How to Prepare:

Rinse and pat dry the chicken.

Coat the chicken with a light coating of olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper.

Loosen the skin on one side of each breast creating a pocket. Put a pinch or two of the herbs or aromatics under the skin.

Heat an oven-proof skillet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on the stove on high-medium-high heat.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Toss the scapes in the pan just when it starts to smoke, season with a pinch of salt/pepper and saute for a couple of minutes.

Toss in the tomatoes (whole, do not cut), season, and saute with the scapes until the tomatoes just start to burst and ooze.

Remove scapes and tomatoes to a bowl and set aside.

Add a touch more olive oil if necessary and place the chicken breasts skin-side down in the pan. Savor the sizzle.

Check after 2-3 minutes that the skin is getting nicely browned (don’t touch in the meantime or the skin won’t get crispy).

Once the desired browning on the skin has been achieved, turn the breasts over, pour the scapes and tomatoes back into the pan around the chicken and give the pan a little shake to even things out.

Put the whole pan in the oven and roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 160 — about 20-25 minutes. It’s amazing to behold when you take it out of the oven — those little tomatoes have literally burst with flavor and the scapes have mellowed and scented the entire dish.

When there is only a few minutes left for the chicken bring the 1 cup of water and about a tablespoon of olive oil to a boil in a small pot.

Add the couscous, give a quick stir, remove from heat, add the herbs/citrus peel or other aromatics and cover. Fluff with a fork just before serving.

To plate, I put down the couscous in a coaster-sized circle in the center of plate, spoon the tomato and scape over the couscous with as much or little of the pan drippings as you want and then place the chicken breasts on top.

A crisp white wine goes really well with this such as an unoaked chardonnay, pinot gris or even a sauvignon blanc.

Photo courtesy of a decidedly dumb phone

Happy Summer.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jerry Karr permalink
    June 20, 2012 5:33 pm

    John, it looks like there IS life after Audubon…Jerry Karr

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