Polenta & Chicken with a Balsamic Pan Sauce

There comes a time in every child’s life when they decide that protesting their dinner is worth sitting at the table for an inordinate amount of time. I remember my first sit-in, and to this day have not taken another bite of Chicken à la King. For one of my sisters, it was lima beans. Tonight was the night for both of my kids. Over polenta, of all things! Creamy, unassuming, comforting polenta. They don’t know how good they have it!

The Sun Bucket started at 350 C (662 °F).

If you’ve ever read this blog before, then you know that I recommend doing your high-heat tasks first, when the Sun Bucket is at its hottest. And that’s still good advice, except if you’re making soft polenta. Polenta is best straight out of the pan (or never, if you were to believe my children), so that it makes a bed for the main dish. As polenta cools, it firms up, which is also good, but for an entirely different dish. Because of this, I saved my boiling until after cooking chicken breasts and a balsamic and honey pan sauce.

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As one tablespoon of butter was melting in a similar amount of olive oil, I patted dry the chicken breasts, sprinkled them liberally with salt and pepper, and dredged them in flour. It took 3-4 minutes to cook on each side to get this lovely, crisp golden coating. When the chicken was cooked through, I removed it from the pan and set to work on a quick pan sauce.

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I added one quarter of a finely chopped onion to the drippings in the pan, and let them cook for about two minutes. I then added in a clove or two of minced garlic and let it cook for an additional minute. Next, a few teaspoons of honey was added to a half cup of balsamic vinegar, and a half cup of chicken stock. This was poured in and used to deglaze the bottom of the pan. The vinegar mixture started to boil immediately and it took just a few minutes for the sauce to reduce in volume by about a third. I put the chicken back in the pan, and put a lid on it to keep it warm.

It was now time for the polenta. I added 4 1/2 cups of water to my small stock pot, put a lid on it and set it on the Sun Bucket’s surface to boil. It took 20 minutes to come to a full, vigorous boil, at which point a box of quick-cooking polenta was dumped in. Stirring constantly, the polenta came to a boil as it thickened. When it had reached a nice porridge-like consistency, I added 2 tablespoons of cream cheese and a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese. Another stir or two and both cheeses quickly melted. (This was much more polenta than 4 people could possibly eat, so the leftovers were poured into a shallow pan to cool and firm up. It will be sliced for polenta fritters at a later date.)

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While I started plating the polenta, chicken, and balsamic sauce, I melted one last tablespoon of butter with a clove of minced garlic. Once melted, I added approximately 3/4 lb of green beans and a tablespoon of water. I let the beans sauté for a few minutes, and then it was time to eat.

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The Sun Bucket was in use for 55 minutes tonight and cooked 2.75 kg of food with an approximate caloric value of 2400 calories.

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