Cranberry-sauced Chicken with Parsnips and Orange

Posted by    |  January 10, 2010  |  Filed under: Recipes

Adapted from In a Vermont Kitchen by Amy Lyon and Lynne Andreen

I picked up an author-signed copy of In a Vermont Kitchen in a discount bin at a resort in Vermont about 10 years ago.  I had just developed an interest in the idea of cooking and thought the recipes sounded pretty good.  Because I was a culinary idiot at that time, most of the books I bought back then I have since discarded- figuring out that the recipes in them were not so great. This is one of the few cookbooks from that era that has survived in my cookbook library.

When the air turns crisp and the leaves start to change, I always crave some familiar dishes.  This is one of them.  I’m always excited to see fresh cranberries hit the store shelves.  This dish is one of the first things I do with them.

This can be prepared with boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well.  I know 80% of you are horrified at the thought of hacking up a whole bird.  We’ll walk you through that some time in the not-too-distant future.

For Meat
Kosher salt
1 3 ½ to 4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces  or 2 ½ pounds chicken breasts of any kind (with or without bones or skin)

For Vegetables
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced (cut in half from root to stem and then slice)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into strips (about 1” long and ½” wide)
1 navel orange, thinly sliced, seeds discarded

For Sauce
1 cup cranberries
¼ cup pure maple syrup


Brown the chicken

  1. Pat the chicken dry on all sides.  Sprinkle the surface of the chicken with kosher salt and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.  The salt will start the process of drawing the natural juices from the chicken to the surface, enhancing the Maillard reaction.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet to high heat (hot but not smoking).  Add the chicken, leaving at least ½” between pieces.  You’ll probably have to cook in batches.
  3. Let chicken brown, flipping only once.  If you try to turn a piece and it sticks to the pan, it is likely that the browning process needs more time. Meat tends to release from the pan when it is well-browned.
  4. Remove chicken to a plate.

Cook the vegetables

  1. Reduce heat to medium and give the pan some time to cool down.  Sauté onions until they begin to brown (a.k.a. carmelize), about 8 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.  The chicken will have left some fond in the bottom of the pan.  Use the moisture from the onions to deglaze that fond, scraping gently occasionally.
  2. Add parsnips to the pan in an even layer.
  3. Layer orange slices on top.
  4. Lay chicken on top of orange slices, skin side up.  It is now okay to crowd the pan.  Cover and cook until chicken is done and parsnips are tender.

Make the sauce

  1. While the chicken cooks, make the sauce.
  2. Combine cranberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat until the berries begin to burst, 7-8 minutes.


  1. Serve chicken on top of vegetables, with sauce ladled over.

Off Script…

Substitute celery root or carrots for the parsnips.  People tend to feel strongly about parsnips:  two camps- love ‘em or hate ‘em.

Add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage to the onion layer before you lay the parsnips on top.

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