Saturday, January 19, 2013

SImply Scrumptious Skewers

Published in The Sanford Herald on December 19. 2012

When I was a child, I had the adorable habit of asking what was for breakfast while I was still munching on dinner.  I suppose I never really outgrew this stomach-driven idiosyncrasy, because I recently awoke craving apricot-glazed chicken on rosemary skewers.  Even before my first cup of coffee, when all rational thought seems nearly impossible, I was thinking of how to make my hungry imagination come to life in time for supper.  I’ve used rosemary sprigs as skewers for years – they make the most delicious grilled shrimp kabobs you’ll ever taste.  It seemed that the combination of that wee distant cousin of my Christmas tree (rosemary) and tangy-sweet apricot glazed chicken would be divine.  Oh, y’all, it was.  I realize that these are not exactly the glory days of the shish kabob, but those playful and scrumptious skewers are due for a comeback.  This recipe is the equivalent of Cher donning her beloved bodysuit, teasing out that hair and announcing her next concert tour to the world (again).  The shish kebab is back!  We’ll wonder why we don’t eat everything in stick form and perhaps see a resurgence of many forgotten culinary wonders, though gelatinous aspic can just stay “archived” as far as I’m concerned, with my apologies to the late great Julia.

If you by chance awoke this morning and tried to decide what dinner might magically appear on your table come evening, give these healthy Asian sweet and spicy skewers a try.  Served with rice and zucchini, these skewers provide a wholesome counterpoint to all of those holiday cookies.  They would also make an interesting appetizer if you just can’t face another cheese ball.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Skewers
Serves two, but can be easily doubled.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 sturdy sprigs of rosemary
¾ cup apricot preserves
4-5 tbs soy sauce (to taste)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a saucepan over medium-low and simmer preserves, soy sauce and crushed red pepper flakes until smooth and warm, about 5 minutes.  Reserve ½ cup of the apricot glaze to serve with skewers.  Meanwhile, prepare your scrumptious skewers.  Thread chicken pieces, one at a time, onto the sprigs of rosemary, gently going from the base to the tip in the direction the leaves grow.  Place skewers on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, about 1 inch apart, and season very lightly with salt and pepper.  Baste chicken with remaining glaze, completely coating all sides.  Bake for 4 minutes, turn skewers, and repeat twice for a total of 12 minutes cooking, or until juices of chicken run clear.  Serve atop white or brown rice with remaining glaze and a side vegetable of your choice. I tossed fresh zucchini slices with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes and baked alongside the skewers.  The rosemary permeates the chicken, giving it a deep earthly flavor, while the sweet apricot and fiery red pepper complement each other perfectly.  There are many potential variations on this recipe: you can skewer shrimp or pork instead, alternate meat and vegetables on your rosemary sprigs or cook on a grill pan over high heat rather than baking.  The possibilities are endless…and the results are simply delicious!

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