Get the Recipe
Though I usually reserve cranberries for sweet recipes, I couldn't resist working it into a savory chicken dish. To make the most of cranberry's potent flavor, I figured a thick and syrupy glaze on top of roasted chicken would be the best approach. The oven concentrates its tart sweetness and creates a rich caramelized coating. It took a few tries, but I was able to nail it in the end.
Making the Topping
I considered simply melting down some canned cranberry sauce to spread over the chicken, but I decided to take full advantage of cranberry season instead. Though fresh cranberries are hard, they only take about 5 minutes to simmer and break down into a soft compote. A little bit of water helps them cook and a fair amount of sweetener—in this case, honey and brown sugar—is added to balance the extreme acidity of the berries. A bit of salt, shallots, and thyme transition this topping from dessert-worthy to chicken-friendly.
Roasting the Chicken
I had initially envisioned slathering the sauce onto the chicken before popping it into the oven (heck, that's as easy as it can get), but I should have known better. The moist topping smothered the chicken, and not a bit of the skin caramelized. On my second attempt, I roasted the chicken until it got nice and crispy before spreading on the cranberries. Another waste of time. Heavy, thick and moist, the cranberries hydrated away all of the crispiness that I'd achieved. It also didn't have the glazed look that I was after.
Straining the pulpy cranberry topping to create an actual syrup was the only solution. So after cooking down the berries I pushed the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to extract the liquid. I spread the glaze over the roasted chicken and then fired up the heat to ensure that it got nice and sticky. Perfect! And so as not to waste the wonderful fresh berries, a few spoonfuls of the mixture are reserved before straining, combined with the extra glaze, and then served on the side to spoon over the chicken and your side of choice. Stuffing or mashed potatoes would be perfect—hey, a mock Thanksgiving meal can't come too early, can it?
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