Thursday, June 24, 2010

Savory and Blueberry

Although strawberries continue to be a daily fruit that brings so much enjoyment, let's hear it for blueberries, just now finding their way to market at a reasonable price.

Lately we hear a lot about the wonderful health benefits of blueberries, but, really, isn't it the intense and sweet tart flavor that brings us back for more?

When I was a kid the usual way to enjoy blueberries was with cream, with cereal and milk, in pancakes and muffins and in pies. These days people are more willing to experiment with this versatile fruit.

I saw a recipe a while back in Bon Appetit magazine (winter of 2007) for game hens cooked with a cranberry sauce. It was very appealing but I never actually made the recipe. Today I decided to see if I could change it up so that I could use fresh blueberries instead, plus other things that I already had in my freezer and pantry. As usual I made a lot of changes...whoever created their recipe wouldn't even recognize it if they look at mine.

Since I am very comfortable with recipe substitutions in baking and less so in cooking when it is this sort of recipe (a savory recipe with fruit is still pretty new territory for me) I'm declaring this one of my High Five recipes.

I felt a bit of trepidation that this would be icky sweet or too fruity for dinner or something, but after I added the pinch of cayenne, it all came together and was wonderful!

The combination of lemon thyme, lemon and blueberry flavors worked so well with the chicken. The brown sugar and jam and lemonade were sweet, but the broth, thyme, and chicken were savory and the hint of heat from the cayenne kept them all friendly. I found that the lemon thyme was less assertive than regular thyme, so I added some dried thyme to reinforce that flavor note. It was great to bite into the warm chicken with sauce and feel the warm blueberry release its juices in my mouth, too. Sort of startling, too because usually that blueberry burst comes with muffin or pancake sweetness as well. Blueberry and savory go together well. I'll be making this recipe again.

Chicken Thighs with Double Blueberry Lemon Thyme Sauce

3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided (I used lemon thyme)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (but OK to use ones with skin on if that’s what you have)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
½ cup lemonade
zest of one lemon – yellow part only
juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons blueberry jam or fruit spread
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen, not thawed)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty foil and have a matching piece ready to cover everything with.

Blend 2 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme in a bowl. Sprinkle chicken thighs with pepper. (I rinsed and dried the chicken thighs first.) Spread some of the butter mixture over each thigh on one side only.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thighs, butter side down. Let cook for 4 minutes, then turn and sear for one more minute. Remove to the prepared baking sheet. Retain the mixture in the skillet and set aside. Cover the baking pan with the extra piece of foil and bake the chicken thighs in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until juice run clear when pierced with a fork.

While the chicken is cooking prepare the sauce. In a small bowl blend the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the 1 tablespoon of flour to make a paste. Set aside.

Add the broth, lemonade, lemon zest and juice blueberry jam , the rest of the thyme, the dried thyme and the cayenne pepper to the skillet with the browned bits still in it. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits and mix them with the other sauce ingredients. Stir over high heat and boil until the sauce is reduced by 1/3. Whisk in the flour mixture and cook for 2 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Add the blueberries and stir to combine with sauce. Lower heat and simmer for a few minutes to warm the berries. Taste and correct for seasonings with salt and pepper.

When the chicken is finished cooking, remove from the baking sheet and place each piece in the sauce, turning over to nap both sides with the sauce. Repeat until all chicken pieces are in the skillet. Serve while hot, making sure to include some of the sauce and berries in each serving.

I served mine with mixed vegetables and orzo pasta. Delicious!
Serves 3-6


  1. Someday I'm going to have to try meat and sweet together -- that looks tasty.

    Am at the stage of simply eating blueberries out of the little box; not baking or cooking with them yet. Same with strawberries. I'm just so glad they're finally ripe.

    I'm going to go wild with the cherries this next week.

  2. Sounds like an intriguing recipe and well worth the Hugh Five.

  3. Sweet & savory are a lovely surprise!
    This looks terrific.

  4. Anonymous2:44 PM

    This looks delicious! Congratulations on another High Five!
    Love and hugs,

  5. That looks fabulous! I can't wait for my blueberries to ripen so I can try this. High Five on taking on something new!

  6. I love lemon thyme - you're the first other person I've seen use it. No blueberries here.... sad to say, I love them. But I found frozen raspberries the other day - there's hope for frozen blueberries, anyway ;-)

  7. Blueberries and lemon thyme with chicken! What an excellent idea. (heh. when I started reading, I thought you were using the herb "savory" with blueberry)

    Because we like to use lemon thyme as a garnish for fish, we have a good shot of lemon thyme growing in the garden. We should be seeing wild blueberries here soon so will have to try this (if we don't use all the blueberries for pie...).


    P.S. Katie, last year, we made wine poached pears with goat's cheese and added lemon and silver thyme to the wine reduction.