Drizzle fork tender chicken with a black pepper-maple sauce seasoned with rosemary for an easy to make special dinner. The mellow sauce is a balanced mix of sweet and spicy that complements the chicken perfectly. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of peppercorns, but they don’t overwhelm the sauce, so don’t skimp on them. The toasted peppercorns are simmered with syrup and broth, then strained out and discarded, producing a smooth, rich sauce.
For a special presentation, use leg quarters. Lightly glaze the chicken before serving and save the rest of the sauce for a quick meal later in the week. It’s great tossed with poached chicken and a side of green beans.
Chicken with Black Pepper and Maple Sauce
Serves 4 to 5, adapted from “Holiday Gourmet”
3 pounds (1350 grams) chicken legs, thighs or leg quarters, skin on
5 tablespoons (75 ml) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3.57 ml) dried rosemary, divided
1 tablespoon (15 ml) whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup (60 ml) real maple syrup
3/4 cup (180 ml) chicken broth or water
1/4 cup (60 ml) rice vinegar, or other vinegar as tolerated
Heat 3 tablespoons (45 ml) butter in a large, heavy skillet, over medium heat. Put the chicken in the skillet and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) rosemary over it. Cook the chicken until the skin is brown, about 15 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cover the pan with a lid. Cook until the other side is brown and the juices are clear when poked, another 15 minutes or so. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with a piece of foil.
Make the sauce while the chicken is cooking. Toast the peppercorns in a dry, heavy saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the peppercorns on a cutting board and coarsely crush them with a rolling-pin, or use a mortar and pestle. The toasted peppercorns will be dry and easily crushed. If you prefer, let them cool for a minute or two, then put them in a zip lock plastic bag before crushing them, to keep them from jumping off the cutting board. Return the peppercorns to the saucepan, along with the syrup, 1/2 cup (120 ml) broth or water,and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) rosemary. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
After the chicken is done, add the vinegar to the skillet and let it boil, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. When the liquid is reduced by half, stir in the peppercorn mixture, along with the remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) broth or water and boil until slightly syrupy, about 3 to 4 minutes.Turn the heat to low and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) butter. Add salt to taste, then pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl. Discard the solids and drizzle a little sauce over the chicken. Reserve the extra sauce for another meal.