Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranate Chicken

Yesterday I started a new freelance gig. It’s three days a week, in an office. Fairly easy work, and I’ve already picked up one perk: a proof of the new Mario Batali cookbook, Molto Italiano, which looks fabulous. So far it’s been good for my eating, too—on my first day they didn’t have my card-key ready, so I couldn’t enter or leave the floor at will; I had to find somebody to let me in or out. Since I don’t know that many people yet, this meant I went out at lunchtime, period. There’s no company cafeteria, no vending machines filled with temptation, and the pantry has only a basic coffee maker, with a sad little pint of whole milk in the dormitory-sized fridge. Luckily I’d brought in an apple and a stash of Curry Roasted Chick Peas (old WW tricks die hard), or I would have been ravenous by the time I left. Lord knows what kind of jumbo cookie I would’ve devoured on the walk to the subway!

Also luckily, I’d defrosted some chicken, bearing in mind the bottle of pomegranate juice in the way-back of our refrigerator. Perhaps it would make some kind of marinade? I’d intended to experiment when I got home, but by 5 I was already pretty beat. (We work-from-home types aren’t accustomed to eight straight hours of work, you know.) S was home yesterday, so I did a quick google on “pomegranate juice marinade,” made a few tweaks to what I found, and emailed it to him so he could get things started. When I got home he was just putting the chicken into the marinade, and it looked pretty darn good:

I asked S if he’d tasted the mixture before adding the chicken. “Um, no, is that allowed?” He thought it would just taste raw. This left us with a delightful period of anticipation, since we had absolutely no idea what to expect. We let it stew in the fridge for about forty minutes before putting the chicken under the broiler. While it cooked I braised some baby bok choy in chicken broth and soy sauce, and made couscous with dried cherries and toasted almonds to go alongside.

Once everything was plated, the couscous looked a little dry, so I put the leftover marinade in a small pot, added some of the bok choy braising liquid, and let it boil down for a minute or two. We spooned it over the couscous, and it was a lovely touch—the shallots cooked a bit but still had some bite, and the little nuggets of crushed peppercorns made an exciting explosion every few mouthfuls. As for the chicken, it cooked up beautifully—very tender and tangy, with a hint of sweetness, and an absolutely gorgeous glazed surface. (True confession: our broiler is horrifically uneven, so while I was setting up and photographing the perfectly-cooked first pieces, I left the rest in the broiler to finish cooking. I got a little too focused on my photography—I’m doing this for you, remember—and the last few pieces got a little, um, well-done. Leathery would be a good choice of word. They still tasted pretty darn good, though a teeny bit reminiscent of fruit roll-ups!)

And now, the recipe:

Pomegranate Chicken
Serves 4-6

1 large shallot, sliced
1 large clove garlic, sliced
juice and zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup pomegranate juice
¼ cup balsamic glaze [we have a bottle from Trader Joe’s, but you could also boil down ½ cup balsamic vinegar with a teaspoon or so of sugar, or use molasses instead]
¼ cup olive oil
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns, crushed
8 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, or 6 large ones

Whisk all the ingredients except the chicken together, then add the chicken. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Preheat the broiler, and prepare the broiler pan [for me this means covering it in aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick spray—makes cleanup eeeeeasy]. Place the chicken on the pan, and broil for 5-8 minutes on each side. Pay attention, since cooking time depends on your particular broiler’s habits. When you turn the chicken, brush a little of the leftover marinade onto the uncooked side before returning it to the oven.

To make a sauce, pour the remaining marinade into a small pan and heat until boiling. Let it bubble for a few minutes, then taste—if it’s too strong, dilute with a little chicken broth or water. You could also stir in a pat of butter, to richen and thicken it, though I skipped this part to save the calories.

According to Weight Watchers, the marinade is 2 points per serving (I calculated the recipe as if it serves 8, assuming you won’t actually eat all of it).