Chicken with Plums, Zucchini with Almonds

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A few times now I’ve mentioned the technique of searing a chicken breast–skin-on, bone-in–in a skillet with hot olive oil, skin-side down, flipping it over when golden brown, finishing it in the oven, removing it from the pan and making a sauce with the brown bits on the bottom, something to deglaze those brown bits, and a little butter. See: lemon juice and butter, tangerine juice and butter, etc. There’s another technique, though, that I learned from Melissa Clark in writing my cookbook that works very well in this same chicken scenario, even though she taught it to me with duck. That technique is similar to the previous technique only it involves fruit.

It goes something like this: pat your skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts dry with paper towels, season them well with salt and pepper, heat olive oil in a skillet until it’s smoking hot, and carefully lay the breasts in skin-side down. They should immediately sizzle.

Step away and let them go for a few minutes; when they’re good and brown, flip them over and finish them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the flesh says 165. There you are.

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While that’s happening, slice up your fruit. On this particular day, I used beautiful red plums that came in my CSA. You could also use red cherries here, nectarines (though I’d use a different acid than the one I’m about to recommend), apricots, peaches, and in the fall, apples. Let’s stick to those plums for now.

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Carefully remove the breasts from the skillet, pour out a little of the fat, and add a pat of butter.

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When it melts and it’s hot, add all of the plums.

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Saute for a minute with a pinch of salt and then add a good splash–or, more appropriately, a glug–of balsamic vinegar.

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Stir all together, scrape up the brown bits, allow to reduce, and taste. If it’s too intense, you can add a little water. It should be pretty wonderful.

Meanwhile, if you happen to have some zucchini and some almonds, remember this technique? It’s so easy. Heat a splash of olive oil in a nonstick skillet then add a good handful of sliced almonds. Toss them all around and cook until they begin to color, then add a bunch of zucchini–about two medium-sized zucchinis–cut into matchsticks, along with a good pinch of salt. Toss all around.

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Sounds kind of boring but it’s anything but: the toasted almond flavor permeates everything, and also gives a great crunch to the proceedings.

And all of this, somehow, works really well together on the plate. I mean, wouldn’t you want to eat this?

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I sure did. In fact, I’m pretty sure I inhaled it, I liked it so much. That’s a summer dinner worth making.

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