Bacon tops list of good go-to ingredients for this easy dish

Detroit Free PressMarch 20, 2013 

FOOD BACON-CHICKEN DE

Bacon can add flavor to pearl couscous, and its fat can be used to cook the chicken.

JESSICA J. TREVINO — MCT

When the question, "What's for dinner?" comes up, having a few go-to one-skillet recipes makes it easy. This recipe is one to have tucked away.

It makes use of key ingredients to have on hand: boneless, skinless chicken breasts, bacon, Dijon mustard and maple syrup.

I know I had you at bacon. Who doesn't love bacon? Pardon the cliché, but it's now as American as apple pie. And before long, someone will put it in apple pie if they haven't already.

In fact, the average American eats nearly 18 pounds of bacon a year.

Never be without bacon in your home was one slice of advice Lucinda Scala Quinn offered in her 2009 book, Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys: Recipes, Strategies & Survival Techniques (Artisan, $18.95).

"You can always whip something up if you can layer it with bacon," Quinn said in an interview.

Quinn is executive director of food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Quinn's Mad Hungry Cravings (Artisan, $27.95) was released Tuesday. In it, she shares her take on ethnic restaurant and take-out recipe favorites.

Not only is bacon an ingredient in today's recipe, the chicken is cooked in the leftover bacon fat. (I didn't say the recipe was low-fat.)

You can use any favorite chopped bacon in this recipe, but using pepper bacon gives the Dijon sauce some zip. The sauce, paired with that yummy bacon flavor, turns out sweet and salty and has a little tang to it.

The cooked and chopped bacon also becomes an ingredient in the couscous, which is cooked in the same skillet. But the finished dish takes on different flavor profiles; it doesn't all taste like bacon.

If you're not familiar with couscous, there are two varieties: regular grainlike couscous and pearl couscous. Regular couscous is found near the pasta and rice in most grocery stores. It takes 5 minutes to make.

Pearl couscous is pasta that looks like tiny beads. It takes about twice as long (10 to 12 minutes) to cook as the grainlike couscous. Pearl couscous is sometimes called Mediterranean or Israeli couscous; some stores stock it in the ethnic foods aisle. You can find it in plain or tricolor varieties. Use either couscous for this dish, but the starch in the pearl couscous adds a heartier texture and flavor.

RECIPE

Maple-Dijon chicken with bacon couscous

¼ cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup maple syrup

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

4 slices bacon, diced

4 (4- to 5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1¼ cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous (see notes)

1 tablespoon parsley, freshly chopped

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

In a small bowl, whisk mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper; set aside. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towel.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat (see notes) from skillet and return pan to medium-high heat until fat shimmers. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season as preferred with salt and pepper. Cook chicken until golden brown and meat registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to platter, brush with mustard mixture, and tent loosely with aluminum foil. (You might not use all the mustard mixture depending on the size of the chicken breasts.)

Add shallot to now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer. Stir in couscous, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir cooked bacon, parsley and vinegar into couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve couscous and chicken with any remaining Dijon sauce on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Notes: Substitute regular couscous for the pearl if desired. If you don't have 2 tablespoons of fat in the skillet after frying the bacon, supplement it with vegetable oil.

Nutrition information per serving: 490 calories, 10 g. fat, 46 g. carbohydrates, 54 g. protein, 818 mg. sodium, 129 mg. cholesterol, 2 g. fiber.

Adapted from Cook's Country magazine, January 2013

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