Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs with Polenta

Life has been really crazy lately. Before I share the recipe for my new favorite fall dish, here are some of my updates:

I am starting my dream job next week. I’ll be working as a Research Assistant at Georgia Cares, an non-profit that coordinates services for youth victims of commercial sexual exploitation. I plan on posting more about what I do and exploring the tough reality of child sex trafficking in a future post. It was kind of stressful to transition out of my paralegal job, but I’m so excited for my new role. Also, I wasn’t able to access much of my kitchen/laundry room/bathroom for the past week due to pipe replacement in my apartment complex. So, that’s why posts have been few and far in between. But I hope to change that now that things are settling back to normal.

Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs with Polenta makes a cozy and delicious fall meal. It's best when fresh figs are in season!

When I woke up this morning, it was cooler than it’s been in a few months. One of the first things I did was check when Starbucks is releasing the Pumpkin Spice Latte (it’s September 8th if you’re interested). Then I went shopping at Target for some cleaning products and household essentials and ended up also buying a red plaid button-down and a box of semi-permanent warm dark blonde hair dye. I dyed my hair this afternoon with the hope of making it a little darker and more auburn for fall – but it honestly doesn’t look different from my natural color. And I won’t be able to wear the button-down comfortably during the daytime for a few more weeks. Still, I have no regrets.

Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs with Polenta makes a cozy and delicious fall meal. It's best when fresh figs are in season!

But I did get to taste the impending arrival of fall in this Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs with Polenta. Now is the time to buy fresh figs – they are only in season for a few weeks and they are insanely good. Besides this recipe, you can use fresh figs in baking or just remove the stem and eat them plain. I always thought eating fresh figs seemed weird, but they are deliciously creamy and sometimes have a slightly bitter undertone that I adore. My husband’s extended family has a deep affinity for figs, and has built many family events around fig-picking and fig preserve-making. So the arrival of fresh figs in grocery stores seems particularly special to me, even though I have only recently become a fan of them.

Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs with Polenta makes a cozy and delicious fall meal. It's best when fresh figs are in season!

I had a surprisingly difficult time finding coarse polenta (as opposed to instant) for this recipe – I checked out my local Publix, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Super Target with no luck. But I did find some Bob’s Red Mill polenta at Whole Foods for $3. You can buy it in bulk on Amazon too if that’s more convenient (or use any brand of coarse ground yellow grits – but I think Bob’s Red Mill has the best flavor of any brand I’ve tried). Hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs with Polenta
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Balsamic Fig Chicken Thighs with Polenta makes a cozy and delicious fall meal. It's best when fresh figs are in season!
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • • 2 slices turkey bacon
  • • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • • 1 cup fresh Mission figs, stemmed and quartered
  • • ½ cup chicken broth
  • • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • • 1 cup polenta
Instructions
  1. Using a medium pot, prepare the polenta according to package instructions. It should take about 30 minutes to cook, approximately the same amount of time as the chicken. Look after it as you prepare the chicken, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes total. Remove from the pan and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  3. Add olive oil and chicken to the hot pan and cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a plate. It will not be fully cooked at this point.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan along with onion and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the onions have begun to soften and turn brown, about 4 minutes. Add the figs and chicken broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken back into the pan. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. The polenta should be ready shortly before the chicken is fully cooked. Stir one tablespoon of butter into the finished polenta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide it evenly among 4 shallow bowls.
  6. Transfer the chicken from the pan into 4 bowls with the polenta. Turn the heat back up to medium high. Add the vinegar to the pan and cook to reduce the liquid by half, about two minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Crumble the bacon over the top.

Adapted from Carla Snyder

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