Eric Akis: A fruity summer sauce for chicken
Sometimes when I’m picking out items for dinner, my eyes go shopping, just like they did the other day at my local grocery store. Shortly after entering, I spotted plump chicken raised on Vancouver Island and strawberries, asparagus and potato nuggets grown in British Columbia. They all looked so fresh and inviting, I quickly bought them, convinced they would make a great meal, but still not sure how I would prepare them.
Nugget potatoes are some varieties – mainly Warba, which I bought – that are picked before they are fully ripe. They have a very appealing, slightly sweet and slightly earthy flavor. Simply boiled and mixed with butter, I thought they would make a nice, simple side dish for the chicken. It would be the same for ultra fresh asparagus, when they are prepared in the same way.
So that left me deciding what to do with the strawberries and the chicken, which were boneless, skinless breasts. I could serve the strawberries for dessert, I thought, but then remembered that in the past I had made a tasty sauce with summer berries, for things like chicken, pork, and salmon. So I took this route and chose to grill the chicken on my barbecue and garnish it, once plated, with strawberry and blackcurrant sauce.
It was not difficult to do. In a small saucepan, I simmered black currant jelly until melted with honey, lime juice, lime zest, ginger, and umami-rich balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. The mixture was then thickened with cornstarch porridge, and then sliced strawberries and mint from my garden, chopped, were mixed. The sauce was simmered a little longer, creating a striking purplish / red sauce with a seductive, intense, sweet and sour flavor. In other words, something that would enhance the flavor of the mild tasting chicken breast and make it very palatable.
The strawberries I purchased were of the “June production” variety, not the permanent production type, the latter being grown and harvested all summer and early fall. June strawberries have a deeper flavor and a ruby red color throughout, making them a pretty nice ingredient to use in a savory sauce.
Note: For your information, I bought more than one basket of these strawberries, which means I had enough to serve for dessert as well. I sliced them and put them on bowls of divine locally made Parachute ice cream (parachuteicecream.com). Serving strawberries twice in a meal has turned out to be a very sweet thing to do!
Grilled chicken breast with strawberry and blackcurrant sauce
The simply seasoned chicken breast is grilled, plated and topped with an alluring, sweet, sour and fruity summer sauce.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: about 13 minutes
Makes: two portions
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons blackcurrant jelly (see note)
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey
1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 teaspoon of cornstarch
2 teaspoons of water
1/2 to 2/3 cup ripe Vancouver Island strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp olive oil
• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint, plus a few sprigs for garnish (see Eric’s options)
Place the jelly, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, ginger, lime zest and juice in a small saucepan. Put on medium heat, bring to a boil, then cook and whisk until the jelly is melted and incorporated with the other ingredients. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, whisk in the pot, bring the sauce back to a boil and simmer for a minute. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the strawberries and set aside until needed on the bottom.
Preheat your barbecue or indoor grill to medium-high heat (about 425 F in the chamber; see Eric’s options). Brush each chicken breast with 1 Tbsp. teaspoon of olive oil; Season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the grill and cook, about four minutes per side, until cooked through.
When the chicken is halfway through cooking, return the sauce to medium heat and bring back to a boil. Stir in the mint, then lower the heat.
When the chicken is cooked, dress it, coat generously with sauce, garnish with mint sprigs and serve.
To note: Blackcurrant jelly is sold in the jam / jelly section of most supermarkets. I used the Bonne Maman brand. You can, of course, use one that has been made locally.
Eric’s options: If you don’t like mint, use chopped parsley instead. If you don’t have a barbecue or indoor grill, sear the chicken in the oil in a nonstick skillet on the stovetop over medium to medium-high heat.
Tasty Filipino Food to Take Out
If you’re in the mood for traditional Filipino cuisine, you’re in luck. After taking a break due to the pandemic, on Saturday, June 19, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Victoria’s Philippine Bayanihan Community Center, 1709 Blanshard Street, will once again serve fantastic Filipino street food. It’s part of their annual Mabuhay celebration, which will be virtual this year. It will be pre-ordered, take-out only. Dishes served in the past have included chicken adobo, pancit (Filipino-style noodles), barbecued pork skewers, and spring rolls. There will be gluten-free and vegetarian options. The funds raised through the sale of food will support the various community initiatives of the Philippine Bayanihan Community Center. For more information and to place your order, visit the Mabuhay event website at thevfca.com Community Center.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section on Wednesdays and Sundays.