Maple Mustard Glazed Chicken

It’s true. Fats, both vegetable and animal, provide some of the most pleasing flavors in our food. Without needlessly vilifying this essential lipid nutrient, it does contain more stored and usable energy per gram than either protein or carbohydrates. Thus for the same calorific bang, we have to consume less of it than either lean protein or carbs. For practical purposes, this meals smaller portions in both volume and weight. If you like having a plate full of food, reducing the total amount of fat in your menu and replacing it with high water content vegetables such as lettuce, mushrooms or other leafy greens will save you in calories without putting a dent in your gorgeously plated food.

This is not to say that all the fats need to be replaced. Human bodies are working machines, capable of repairing themselves from use and damage. But they need essential amino acids, vitamins, proteins and most importantly sugars to complete all these tasks. All sugars, mono-, di-, and polysaccharides, are used strictly as fuel for all the various processes that take place in each cell, of which the sheer numbers are beyond comprehension.

All this biology aside, we don’t really have the slightest idea what is happening inside our cells, we just know when we are hungry, and we certainly know what tastes good: fats, sugars and proteins. Getting back to the original premise, we need fats, but we don’t need a lot of them. So lets replace some of the fat in the meal with a slightly calorie-reduced alternative. These maple-mustard glazed chicken breasts have done just that. By using skinless boneless breasts, much of the fat in our chicken has completely disappeared. No matter how fat our chickens are, it’s all subcutaneous or residing in a few choice organs, not marbled in the meat like its bovine compatriots.

We will be roasting our chicken breasts rather than frying or sauteeing them in additional fats, which are used to lubricate and facilitate even heat transfer. But roasting chicken without its skin very often results in dry chicken. To counter the moisture loss that’s part and parcel with roasting, we’ll baste the chicken before we apply the heat. And we’ll be using a glaze that doesn’t have fats. Instead, we’ll be using mustard, for flavor, and sugars, both maple and brown, for added flavor and to help seal in moisture.

To fill our plate the rest of the way, we’ll serve this chicken breast over a very large bed of baby sweet lettuce drizzled with a Dijon vinaigrette. Since we eliminated nearly every molecule of fat from the chicken, we’ll add a bit back with our dressing, but significantly less than what we would have had otherwise. The lettuce which is nearly 100% water with a few essential vitamins and minerals adds a negligible amount of calories to the entire meal. But what a beautiful amount it is. Finish the dish with a few parboiled new potatoes seasoned with a pat of butter and freshly ground salt and pepper. Viola, full flavor without all those pesky calories.

Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken Breasts

  • 4 whole chicken breasts, skinless and boneless, about 6 ounces each
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon-thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil. Place cleaned and trimmed breasts, rib side down. Whisk all the glaze ingredients together and brush half on the breasts. Roast for 25 minutes. Brush the remaining glaze on the breasts and roast for an additional 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest while you prepare the salad.

Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon finely ground salt
  • ¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • baby sweet lettuce

Mix the egg, garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking to emulsify. Refrigerate for a few hours for the flavors to combine and the garlic to mellow. Toss baby sweet lettuce with the dressing immediately before serving.