By Cat, Jan 2009 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
I’ve not had much exposure to Southern-style cooking, other than from New Orleans. I do know that a fair amount of sugar is used, even in main dish recipes like this one. But sweet potatoes are rather sweet on their own, so very little additional sweetener is needed.
Lard is also a common ingredient in Southern cooking, something I champion. You can use coconut oil to sear the chicken if you prefer, but do not use vegetable seed oils like corn, soy or canola as they are rancid in the bottle (disguised with chemical deodorants) unless they are cold-pressed. Also do not use vegetable shortening, as it is mostly trans-fat.
This is a delicious and easy recipe. You can use canned sweet potatoes, or cook your own; I prefer the latter.
See also: 1. Poultry & Fowl Menu;
Chicken Breasts Baked with Sweet Potatoes, Southern Style
This recipe is adapted from 365 Ways to Cook Chicken, © 1986 by John Boswell Management, Inc. (1). The original called for canned sweet potatoes, and you could certainly use that instead of cooking your own. I prefer to cook my own, to avoid BPA in the epoxy that lines the can.
You can use bone-in breasts, as in the original recipe and duplicated here. But a cut-up whole chicken (legs, wings, breasts) or mixed chicken pieces can also be prepared this way. If using a cut-up whole chicken, make a double recipe of the other ingredients.
I don’t much care for raisins, so I use currants, or dried cranberries (craisins) if I can find those sweetened with apple juice rather than sugar. Another option here in the Flathead Valley is dried sweet cherries, but you might want to cut each into 4 pieces. Or use dried plums, chopped. I use currants and chopped dried cherries or plums; I avoid raisins because they include a lot of added sugar or HFCS, and I don’t like raisins.
The sauce is made with cream. It is important that you do not use milk, as the heat of baking will curdle the milk, separating the casein from the whey, and the casein clumps together. Another alternative is freshly-made whole coconut milk or canned coconut milk. I don’t recommend the diluted coconut milk (e.g., Silk brand), as it is too watery.
If you’re not a turkey fan, this dish makes a great Thanksgiving entree.
Ingredients & Equipment:
NOTE: double recipe if using meaty pieces of cut-up chicken (legs, wings, breasts)
- 2 large chicken breasts, with skin & bone (or meaty pieces of ½ chicken), brined
- 1 Tbsp each lard and olive oil
- Sweet Potatoes: Use 12-oz can of sweet potatoes, or cook your own in the oven:
- 12 oz sweet potatoes
- about ½ cup water
- 1 cup raw heavy cream (or whipping cream) – DO NOT use milk, as it will curdle
- 1 – 3 tsp honey or maple syrup (originally 2 Tbsp)
- 1 tsp unrefined sea salt (if not brined)
- ¼ tsp ground or grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ cup dried fruit such as raisins, dried Zante currants, chopped dried cherries or plums. or craisins
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- bowl (for brining)
- cast iron skillet
- 13 x 9 baking dish or casserole dish
- Prep chicken: Brine chicken pieces for 30 minutes (½ cup Kosher salt in 1 quart filtered water; add 1-2 Tbsp Rapadura or maple syrup if desired). Rinse and pat dry; cut in half, crosswise. Season with black pepper.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Sweet potatoes: If using canned sweet potatoes, skip this step. Otherwise, while chicken is brining, peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1″ – 1½” slices. Place in ovenproof baking dish with lid; add 1 tsp butter, about ½” water, and season with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven until almost done, about 12 – 15 minutes, (you can partly pierce the potato with a toothpick). Do not over-cook. Remove from oven. Do not turn oven off.
- Reserve ¼ cup of the syrupy liquid from canned sweet potatoes or from the just-cooked sweet potatoes.
- Cook Chicken: Heat lard/oil in skillet over medium heat. Add brined chicken pieces and sear until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side. Arrange pieces in casserole.
- Combine sauce ingredients (cream, honey, salt, and spices). NOTE: if you brined the meat, don’t add salt. Pour over chicken then bake in preheated oven 10 minutes.
- Finish: Remove from oven; arrange sweet potatoes, raisins and chopped pecans around chicken. Pour reserved ¼ cup syrupy liquid over all. Return to oven and bake 40 minutes, until chicken is tender.
- Serve with braised lima beans and chopped kale plus homemade biscuits.
11/28/11: Made half recipe, using 1 large half-breast, brined, and a small yam, about 6 oz.. All I had on hand was skinless/boneless breast, so I dusted it with whole oat flour before searing. Used maple syrup, craisins, and added chopped pecans which were not in the original recipe. This was a good addition. Result: This dish is delicious, and easy to make. However, reheating the second portion reveals it to be a bit too sweet; next time I’ll try using less honey/maple syrup in the cream sauce, and I’ll not bake the yam with maple syrup (I’ve updated the recipe accordingly).
Thanksgiving 2015: Doubled recipe for meaty pieces of whole Hutterite chicken. Cut up bird and brined meaty pieces (legs, wings, breasts) for 95 minutes, using 1 quart water and ½ cup Diamond Kosher salt. Rinsed and dried off pieces, then into fridge overnight. Thanksgiving morning prep: Used ½ cup dried fruit mixture (chopped plums plus raisins and currants); mixed together with ½ cup chopped pecans. Pre-cooked 2 sweet potatoes (22 oz) 75 min in oven; however they are more done than I’d intended. Used my largest Corningware casserole (photo, left, from Walmart (2)); it is crowded with the browned chicken pieces; added cream mixture, and into oven for 10 minutes. Managed to get ¾ of the sweet potato slices tucked in here and there; sprinkled dried fruits and nuts over, then poured reserved cooking liquid from the sweet potatoes. Into oven at 5:15 PM, out at 6:15 PM for total of 60 minutes. Next time, either use 2 casseroles, or use a half chicken and 1 sweet potato. Result: Delicious, but the creamy sauce was a little too runny. I will try thickening it when I reheat leftovers. The dried fruit and pecans add nice texture treat, not to mention the flavor.
- 365 Ways to Cook Chicken, © 1986 by John Boswell Management, Inc.
- Walmart photo: walmart.com/ip/Corningware-French-White-2.5-qt-Oval-Casserole-with-Glass-Cover/11971384