Chicken with Apple-Maple Compote and Cheese Grits Recipe

With a rollercoaster of weather from the height of sweltering summer heat to a fast “swoosh” down to cool fall temps, thoughts of cozy dinners with autumnal flavors pop up. And a mainstay of dinner—chicken, chicken, chicken—can get a little tired. Enter apples and maple syrup. Once relegated to the breakfast table, maple syrup also works well in savory dishes, where its slightly smoky taste adds an intriguing note.

In this recipe by Twin Cities author Teresa Marrone, which she adapted from her cookbook, Modern Maple for Real Food, she suggests using a Braeburn apple, which is a multipurpose crisp, juicy apple that has a rich, spicy-sweet flavor. A tidbit about the apple: Braeburn originated in New Zealand in the early 1950s and was a chance seedling, with Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith as possible parents. It’s now grown in the United States, too. Other apples will work, of course. Just keep in mind you want one in the firmer category to keep its shape and not turn to mush when cooked for the compote. This dish may seem complicated, but it comes together in about 45 minutes, says Marrone.

Chicken with Apple-Maple Compote and Cheese Grits

Makes 4 servings

2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¾ cup coarse cornmeal, or stone-ground grits
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 7 ounces each)
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1 large Braeburn or other firm, sweet-tart apple, peeled, cored, and diced
½ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
¼ cup grated Cheddar cheese

1. Combine broth and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stirring constantly, add cornmeal in a slow, steady stream. Return to a boil, cover, reduce heat to very low, and cook 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. While cornmeal is cooking, preheat oven to 350°F. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until simmering. Add chicken and sauté until golden-brown on both sides. Transfer to a baking dish that holds chicken snugly in a single layer. In a small bowl, combine mustard and 1½ tablespoons syrup. Brush liberally over chicken, using entire amount. Bake, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes, until juices run clear. When internal temperature reaches 165°F at thickest part, remove chicken from oven, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.

3. While chicken is baking, place skillet with chicken drippings over medium heat; if dry, add a little more oil. Add apple and onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, until apple softens and turns golden. Add vinegar, thyme, hot pepper sauce, and remaining syrup, and stir to loosen any browned bits. Adjust heat so mixture bubbles very gently and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, until most of liquid has cooked away but mixture is saucy. Transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.

4. Stir milk into cooked cornmeal and place over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then stir in Parmesan and Cheddar cheeses. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Serve grits with chicken and warm compote.

Nutrition info Chicken with Apple-Maple Compote & Cheese Grits (Per Serving): Calories 626 (194 From fat); Fat 22g (Sat. 8g); Chol 128mg; Sodium 848mg; Carb 60g; Fiber 3g; Protein 47g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.