Pepper Jelly–It’s Not Just For Crackers

1 Apr

Down in these parts, pepper jelly is synonymous with crackers and cream cheese. Sounds strange to a Northerner, but once you’ve tried these little morsels of spice and cool bland, you’re hooked. There’s a formula for assembling such treats. Cream cheese first, topped off with a sheer spread, or large dollop–if you’re really adventurous–of the pepper jelly.

Pepper jelly comes in so many varieties, ranging from a large color palatte of reds, greens, and yellows, to equally-varying spice levels. It’s a staple in most Southern cupboards, including mine. Even Kaukab’s had managed to employ a jar–gifted her by some American-born neighbor, no doubt.

Last week, while driving home from Columbus, I stopped at a country store in a small town that I used to visit on occasion when employed nearby. It was there that I found my pepper jelly. And, rather than use it in its official capacity, I decided to melt it and use it as a glaze to finish off my pan-seared chicken breasts.

This was a really quick and easy dish to prepare–the way I like it on a week night.

Just get yourself some chicken breasts–I used eight, fairly thick ones. Make sure to pat dry breasts (watch it!) before salting (both sides) with garlic salt. Then heat a large skillet (I like to use a well-seasoned iron pan) on high, and pour in a light coating of oil (I use canola) when pan is on its way to getting hot. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, dump in about 3 large tablespoons (the kind you eat from–not the measuring kind) of the pepper jelly and heat on the lowest setting you’ve got. Squirt in a little lime for added brightness–a small wedge, at most, or use lime zest.  Stir often, until thinned. Turn off heat and cover.

Now then, place three or four chicken breasts into heated pan and cover. Allow 3 or 4 minutes for a nice brown crust and then turn over and re-cover, until also nicely browned. Remove from pan and place on a plate, covering with foil, while you finish the remaining breasts. Turn on broiler at this point. Place all browned chicken breasts on baking tray (unless your plate is oven proof) and glaze with melted pepper sauce. Reserve the chicken juices to pour atop the finished chicken once finished broiling. Pop under the broiler (placing in center of oven, so won’t dry out) for a couple of minutes. Watch carefully. You want the glaze to get a slight browned crust.

Time to put away them crackers.

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