It’s almost Memorial Day, and nothing is more American than a good, old fashioned barbecue. When you add Maple Syrup– that quintessential American condiment, it takes your grill game to a whole new level. I recently tried some homemade maple syrup from Foxglove Farm in Vermont, and the flavor was so delicious– so deep and luscious and dark, that I just knew it would make an incredible BBQ sauce. So give this recipe a try– I highly recommend the maple syrup from Foxglove Farm (PS– they have a little rental cabin, too, if you’d like to see syrup making, beekeeping, and a host of other awesome homesteading type skills up close), but whatever you use make sure it’s the real syrup and not the imitation kind, or the recipe won’t come out the same.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Maple BBQ Chicken
2 tbsp. olive oil
8 chicken tenderloins (or 2 small chicken breasts, cut into strips)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup real (not imitation) maple syrup
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. cornstarch (optional)
Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet until pan is very hot but not smoking. Salt and pepper chicken tenderloins to taste and sear until golden brown. When chicken is cooked and slightly caramelized remove from skillet and set aside, tenting with foil to keep warm. In the same skillet reduce the heat slightly and add butter, garlic, and onion. Saute for several minutes until vegetables are slightly translucent and fragrant. Add in ketchup, maple syrup, dry mustard, vinegar, and a few shakes of salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for several minutes until sauce reduces slightly. If you like a thicker BBQ sauce make a cornstarch slurry (1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp. water and added all together once mixed) and add to sauce, stirring until the mixture thickens. Return chicken to pan and cover generously with sauce. Serve immediately.
Now let’s take a look at the process in pictures. 🙂
Ahhh don’t you love one skillet wonder meals? Me too. One . . . count it . . . ONE skillet to wash, my friends. My baby and the skillet I use more than any other is the 26 (10.25 inch) Le Creuset deep skillet. That baby has been faithfully by my side for years of Saturday chocolate chip pancakes, Sunday fried chicken, and even the occasional skillet full of soft, fluffy cinnamon rolls. I use it like it’s going out of style, and it has never once failed me. And after all these years of cooking bliss, it still looks just as good as the day I got it (more about my love affair with Le Creuset here). If there is just one really nice piece of equipment you want to invest in for your kitchen, a great choice is a high quality cast iron skillet. They do it all and have time to make it look easy. Get one. You deserve it.
Although it takes 5-10 minutes to get hot (AKA, don’t try to “speed up” the process by turning the heat on high. Just be patient and get everything ready while the pan warms up), nothing cooks like cast iron. So get that baby nice and hot and sear your little salted and peppered chickies in the pan with a drizzle of olive oil until they are golden on each side. Tenderloins are small and cook very quickly, so it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes per side. When the chicken is brown on each side move it to a separate plate and cover loosely with foil to keep it warm while we whip up this deeeeelicious sauce!
Cast iron holds onto heat like the IRS holds onto your money at tax time. It NEVER LETS GO. EVER!!!!! *flames fall around me*
Well. Ahem. I mean, eventually it cools off. But unlike a nonstick pan, cast iron stays nice and hot for you (which means it keeps supper warm without being plugged in, even after you stop cooking. This translates to you getting a hot meal even after you cut up everything on the kids’ plates into a billion little pieces, race back into the kitchen because someone wanted more milk, and ooooops I forgot to grab a spoon I’ll be right back . . . yep. It will still be nice and hot waiting for you. You’re welcome).
So because we just cooked chicken in this lovely skillet, it’s nice and raring to go for the sauce. I turn the heat down just a little for the sauce because I don’t want it to burn (I did 5 on the stove dial for the chicken and turned down to 3 1/2 or so for making the sauce). Throw in your butter, then the minced garlic and onion. Swirl it around and breathe in perfection. Yes. Yes it is. PERFECTTTTTIONNNNN.
After a few minutes your vegetables will be kind of see through and smelling incredible (I mean, seriously– if there is a smell better than sauteing onions, I don’t know what it is). At this point add in everything else (except the cornstarch), and swirl that around.
Make sure you are using real maple syrup instead of like, Log Cabin from the store. It won’t come out quite the same if you use the store kind. If you’ve never had real maple syrup, then you are in for a treat! There is nothing quite like the rich, burnished flavor of it. And the better your syrup, the deeper the flavor of this sauce. I used syrup from Foxglove Farms in Vermont, and it was scrumptious!
Let your sauce simmer and bubble happily for a few minutes. Stir it as you wait so that your gorgeous mixture that you are working so hard to create doesn’t stick to the pan and get too brown.
Basically you just want your sauce to reduce a little bit so that it thickens up. This takes about 5 minutes of cooking, but if you’re in a hurry and everyone is screaming “Supper now or we have a REVOLUTION!!!!!!!!!!!!” then you can use a simple cornstarch slurry (mix 1 tbsp. cornstarch with 1 tbsp. water in a bowl and stir until it looks like milk) stirred in while the mixture is bubbling to thicken it faster.
When your sauce is thickened to your liking, go ahead and turn off the heat under the skillet. But because you are very good students with photographic memories and never forget anything, you know that this cast iron beauty will keep the food nice and warm for you, even with the stove off. You’re so smart. I love working with you.
Pop your chicken tenders back into the pan and swirl them around so that everyone gets a nice, saucy bath in the BBQ pool. Did everyone bring your pool passes? hehe.
It’s always nice to spoon a little extra sauce onto each plate as you serve this dish. Because let’s face it– there are very few things in life that are not improved upon by a dunk into a sweet, delicious sauce. Bread tastes amazing in it. Even broccoli is improved by it. Hey . . . maybe even dunking your enemies in there would make them sweeter. There are no guarantees but at least smearing sauce on their faces would probably be really fun.
Luckily I had just enough of my delicious Foxglove Farm syrup to make the fluffiest pancakes in the world another day. It truly was one of the most rich, full bodied and flavorful maple syrups I have ever tried. I can’t find one flaw with it except . . .
I wish there was more! haha.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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