20* Minute Autumn Supper

Ah the chicken breast.  One of the greatest gifts to weeknight dinners, and also one of the worst.  There are literally thousands of chicken breast recipes in existence, but a lot of them are really bland or boring.  Yet since this staple is healthy, easy to prepare, and usually relatively inexpensive, I’m always trying to think of ways to keep it interesting in the kitchen.Those ways usually involve flour dredges and wine reductions and pan sauces, but sometimes that is too much work and too much of a mess, especially when it’s Wednesday night at 6:30 and we haven’t eaten yet.  Luckily, I stumbled into this great and easy recipe for Maple Dijon Chicken that takes about 20 minutes from start to finish to prepare, not to mention the fact of how yummy it is.  And paired with a DELICIOUS, no frills, perfectly baked sweet potato (**Which doestake 50 minutes to bake, hence the asterisk in the title of this post), this is an awesome quick and easy Autumn Supper! Ingredients:
Chicken:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper

Sweet potatoes:
4 medium sweet potatoes
olive oil
1 tsp. salt

(Our readers are smart, so we know you deduced from the ingredients list that this meal serves 4 people.)

Step 1:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub the sweet potatoes to remove surface dirt and prick all over with a fork.  Throw into a large bowl with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat, then sprinkle with the salt.  Place on an oven rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 50 minutes.

The science:  Coating the potato with olive oil helps to regulate the temperature inside while it is cooking, and keeps it from drying out.  The salt on the skin is mostly for if you are eating the skin (which you should, it’s really good for you!)  The olive oil might drip and cause smoke in the oven, so I put an 8×8 pan on the bottom rack with a little water in it to catch drippings.

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Step 2:
About 20 minutes before the sweet potatoes’ cooking time is up, prep the sauce for the chicken by mixing the Dijon mustard, maple syrup, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.
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Step 3:
Blot the chicken breasts with paper towels to remove excess moisture and sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat and place the chicken breasts in the pan. Saute for about 6 minutes on one side, then flip.  At this point, you can start brushing the sauce onto the cooked side of the breasts.
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Note, if you don’t have a nonstick skillet, that’s fine, but SKIP this ‘basting’ step.  The sugars in the maple syrup will burn, burn, burn, and you may not burn down your kitchen but with all the smoke, your family/roommates will think you are trying to.Step 4:
After another 6 minutes on the other side, just continue to flip and baste the chicken breasts until they are done, and by done I mean, register 160 degrees.  (I use this thermometer.  At only 15 bucks, it takes the guess work out of knowing if your food is cooked, and can save you from tough, dry meat!)Step 5:
Transfer the chicken to a plate, pour the rest of the sauce on it and cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.  It’s around this time that you can probably pull the sweet potatoes out of the oven and let them cool off a bit too!

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I don’t know about you but I get cranky when I’m served sweet potatoes that are ‘candied’ or covered in marshmallows.  If you let this potato stand on its own, you will be amazed.  Baking and serving with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper is absolutely my favorite technique.  The flavor and texture of a sweet potato cooked this way is transcendental!  And it pairs wonderfully with the maple Dijon chicken.P.S. Much like eating the skin, it is a good idea to serve the sweet potato with a little olive oil.  The presence of a healthy fat actually helps to distribute some of those nutrients to your body!Enjoy!

~Lauren

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