Maple Mischief

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Much to Matthew’s chagrin, I’m a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to food-borne illness.

Before you conjure up any horrifying visuals, let me set the record straight. No, I do not lick raw chicken. However, I have been known to taste-test things like eggs and (gasp) burgers before cooking, to test for seasoning. Wise? Hardly. Foolhardy? I suppose. I guess I’ll continue this game of culinary Russian Roulette until I wind up in the E.R.

That being said, my latest devil-may-care mischief involved some maple syrup I purchased at TJ Maxx.

Two years ago.

That I opened one year ago.

And never refrigerated.

I sense that you have questions and concerns, so I’ll do a little roleplay and try to answer them here.

“Josh — of all places, why would you buy maple syrup at TJ Maxx?”

I must admit that, for most people, this IS a valid question. I myself was once terrified at the prospect of purchasing what I called “TJ Snaxx.” Then I found some Nielsen-Massey Vanilla there for half price. Then I found some artisan salts. Next some herbs de provence. I used them and didn’t grow a tail or a horn. So, I gradually got cozy with the idea of what my friend Greg refers to as “distressed merchandise.”

“Why are you using two-year-old maple syrup?”

This is a two-part answer. 1. David grew up during the Great Depression, so we don’t waste ANYTHING in this house, and 2. Maple syrup is best when aged.*

“Why did you never refrigerate the syrup like the label clearly requested?”

Because I can’t read.

“Why did you continue with your food preparation, knowing that your syrup was possibly contaminated by potential pancreas-poisoning toxins?

Ironically, it was a decision based on logistics. Restarting would require two trips — one to TJ Maxx for more maple syrup, and one to the grocery for more sweet potatoes. I measured the potential risk of three days in the hospital versus the definite sacrifice of 25 minutes and $7 for potatoes and distressed maple syrup, and made the logical choice to gamble on the past of less immediate resistance.

So, how did it turn out? Well, it’s twelve hours later, and I’m drinking my morning coffee and writing this blog post. So…so far so good. Wait…I’m sensing another question…something I might have forgotten to mention due to my long-winded dissertation on discount maple syrup…

“This is a food blog, dummy. What did you cook???”

Ah yes. I suppose that would be pertinent. And so we begin. ;)

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Roasted Chicken with Chipotle-Maple Sweet Potatoes
Don’t choke — I actually followed a recipe for once! I snagged this one from the Jan/Feb issue of Taste of the South magazine. I was intrigued by the maple-chipotle combo, and the ease of cooking it all in the cast iron skillet. I was not disappointed — it was very tasty. Recipe adapted below.

1 TBSP + 2 tsp olive oil
4 small chicken breasts (or thighs) … see NOTE
1 tsp salt + half tsp pepper
½ tsp ground coriander (or cumin, I used both)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
¼ maple syrup
1 TBSP minced chipotle pepper … see NOTE
2 lemon wedges.

I like to get all my chopping done before heat comes into play, so I began by taking care of my potatoes, onion, and chipotle. While we’re on the subject of chipotles, if you have no idea where to acquire them, read this. Put onions and potatoes in a medium bowl.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Season your chicken with salt, pepper, and coriander/cumin. Heat a TBSP of oil over medium heat in a 12-inch cast iron (or any oven-proof) skillet and brown chicken for 3-5 minutes, then flip and remove pan from heat.

While that’s settling, add remaining oil, minced chipotle, and maple syrup to sweet potatoes, tossing to coat. Pour veggies around the chicken, and bake for 40 minutes, or until chicken is done.

NOTE: I used tiny chicken breasts, and their packaging indicated a 20- minute cook time due to their size. To solve this issue, I removed the chicken from the cast iron, added the potato mixture, and baked for 20 minutes. Then I added the chicken and cooked for another 20. Perfectly done!

And that, darlings, is pretty much it. Finish with a nice spritz of lemon, and you have a rather tasty, somewhat death-defying, meal.

So what’s the lesson here today? Don’t discriminate against distressed merchandise, but do try your best to avoid distressing it any further before you use it. Happy mischief making! ;)

*This is not a statement of fact. It is pure snarky sarcasm. Kitchen Mischief does not recommend the use of potentially hazardous food items and cannot be held responsible for medical co-pays incurred after consuming such items.

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