In New England, where I live, there are so many grand maple trees that the syrup goes into everything.
You often find it in pots of baked beans instead of molasses, as well as in all kinds of cakes, pies, and other sweet desserts.
Maple syrup also makes its way into simple weeknight dishes like this skillet chicken recipe, where it turns into a glaze.
Start by searing the chicken by itself, then brown some onions until they start to turn golden. Add a few cut pears to the skillet so they brown, too.
Spread the seared chicken breasts with a maple-mustard glaze, then set them on top of the onions and pears. The juices from the chicken baste the fruit and onions as it cooks, making them especially succulent, while the glaze turns the chicken a beautiful golden color. The onions also finish caramelizing in the oven.
This is a one-skillet dish, and you can serve it right from the pan. I like to use a cast iron skillet, but any oven-safe pan will do. (If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the onions, pears, and chicken to a baking dish before sending it to the oven.)
Here’s something to watch for when buying maple syrup: Check the label and make sure the bottle contains only maple syrup and no fillers. Many syrups sold for serving with pancakes aren’t pure maple (they’re often diluted with corn syrup).
When you taste what real maple syrup adds to the dish, you’ll know why New Englanders reach for it not only for pancakes, but for just about everything else as well.
Maple-Glazed Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Pears
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large Spanish or yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 large ripe firm-fleshed pears (like Bartlett), or 3 smaller pears
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Brown the chicken:
Heat the oven at 450°F. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the chicken and cook without disturbing for 3 to 5 minutes, until the underside is golden. Turn and cook the other sides for 3 to 5 minutes more, until the other side is golden. Transfer chicken to a large plate.
Cook the onion:
Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes, or until the onion starts to brown.
Prep and cook the pears
While the onions cook, peel and core the pears. Cut into quarters (large pears can be cut into 6 pieces.)
Move the onions to the center of the pan. Add the pears, cut sides down, around the edge. Cook for 4 minutes or until the pears brown on the bottom. Stir the onions occasionally.
Turn the pears and cook the other cut sides for 3 minutes more. Stir the onions occasionally.
Return the chicken to the skillet and glaze:
Gently stir the pears and onions together and flatten them slightly to create a bed for the chicken. Place the chicken on top of the pears and onions. Tip in any pan juices from the plate into the skillet.
In a small bowl, stir together the maple syrup and mustard. Spread the glaze over the chicken breasts with a spoon.
Bake the chicken:
Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the glaze is browned, the pears are tender when pierced, and the chicken is cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breasts should register 165°F.
Serve the chicken:
Divide the pears and onions between plates, add a chicken breast, and sprinkle with parsley.