I like cooking with fruits. They impart a sweetness that isn’t cloying, they add color to the sauce and meat, and they thicken the sauce naturally as the fruit fibers break down and turn into a pulp. Of all the times I cooked a main dish using fresh fruits, my recent favorites include chicken and mangoes in yogurt and pineapple and chicken rice.
There are times though when we don’t have fresh fruits in the house or when the fruits that we do have aren’t ideal for cooking (bananas are the most common fruits in our house, for instance). During those times, if I want to add a fruity flavor to the dishes that I cook, I use fruit jam. This chicken dish was cooked with guava jelly and it was superb. Slightly sweet, slightly tangy and very, very aromatic.
The only real effort here is in browning and searing the chicken before baking. You have to, really, because unless the chicken is browned and seared, the chicken won’t acquire good texture. It will steam in the oven instead of developing a crust that is so desirable in dishes like this. Worse, scum will form during the first few minutes inside the oven and all of it will go into the sauce.
So, brown the chicken on the stovetop first. After that, you just pop it in the oven. No stirring, no watching, no mess.
But does it have to be rosemary? And guava jelly? No, tarragon is just as great. Orange marmalade is good too. In other words, the herb and fruit jam components can be just about anything. The cooked dish will, of course, acquire the flavors of whatever herb and jam you choose. Go with your gut feeling and try whatever combination you think will work.
Baked Chicken With Rosemary and Guava Jelly
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a non-stick frying pan, brown the chicken thighs and legs — in batches, if necessary. With a non-stick pan, there’s no need to add oil because the fat in the chicken skins will melt and provide all the oil you need. You’re not cooking the chicken all the way at this point — just searing them. As each batch of chicken browns, transfer to a baking dish (which should be large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer).
Scatter the rosemary over the browned chicken thighs and legs.
In a bowl, mix together the lemon juice, fruit jam, salt, pepper and zest. Pour over the chicken and rosemary.
Take a piece of foil, poke in several places to create stem vents. Cover the baking dish with the foil.
Bake the chicken at 350F for 40 minutes. Peel off the foil, turn up the heat to 425F and bake for another 10 minutes.
Allow the baked chicken with rosemary and guava jelly to rest for about 10 minutes (just long enough for you to set the table). Serve with rice or bread.