Apricot chicken is a chicken recipe which uses apricots as the featured ingredient in the glaze applied to the chicken during the cooking process. The glaze is generally applied only during cooking, although some cooks also marinate the chicken beforehand in a marinade flavored with apricot. Some recipes call for an entire chicken, while others specify only certain parts, generally the breasts. Likewise, some cooks leave the skin on during the cooking process while others remove it.
The reason apricot chicken is so popular is that chicken, like many other meats, can successfully be cooked with sweet as well as pungent flavors. There are many different apricot chicken recipes, most of which employ a pungent ingredient as a contrast with the apricots. The most common is vinegar, sometimes on its own and sometimes in salad dressing. Another ingredient found in many different recipes is dry onion soup mix.
Recipes for apricot chicken call for apricots in a number of different forms. The most commonly used is apricot preserves, which includes small pieces of the fruit. Many recipes for apricot chicken, though, call for fresh apricots, pitted, peeled and diced, or for sun-dried apricots.
There are many different ways to prepare apricot chicken. Some recipes call for elaborate glazes that are themselves cooked before being spread on the chicken, while others call for the glaze to be prepared by placing the chicken pieces in a mixing bowl, adding the glaze ingredients, and then tossing the entire mixture until well-blended. A “down-and-dirty” approach is simply to spread apricot preserves on the chicken, sprinkle it with minced garlic, salt and pepper, and bake it.
Baking, roasting and sautéeing are the three preferred cooking methods for apricot chicken. Many recipes include a period of roasting or frying the chicken for a short period of time before adding the glaze, and some start cooking the chicken on top of the stove and finish it in the oven. Some recipes depend on a long, slow cooking process and specifically require the use of a crockpot.
When cooking chicken, the cooking process employed has a significant impact on the appearance, texture and, to some extent, even the flavor of the meal. Roasting, for example, is a dry-heat process that usually uses a higher heat, especially at the beginning of the process, and generally suspends the meat above a drip collection pan rather than letting the meat sit in the juices. The skin and a thin outer portion of the meat of roasted chicken are firmer and dryer, and the flavor from the glaze won’t penetrate the meat as deeply if roasted. Baking recipes involve lower temperatures, and often let the meat sit in a sauce, generally inside a covered cooking vessel. Chicken baked this way will have a much moister flesh that more easily falls off the bone, but the glaze generally deteriorates into a sauce.
Sauteeing chicken on top of the stove more closely resembles baking than roasting, because the meat stays in constant contact with the sauce. Frying, on the other hand, isn’t a good way to prepare apricot chicken because the chicken has to be in contact with hot oil. Any apricot glaze that’s applied to the chicken will wash off in the frying process and make a mess of the oil.