Balsamic Chicken with Pears

Serves 4-6

In this recipe, the balsamic vinegar not only tenderizes the chicken to a buttery consistency, but also lends a sweet-and- sour taste to the sauce. The cherries add a splash of color and sweetness that makes this dish appealing to even the pickiest eaters.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, chopped
2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup dried cherries

Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. One at a time, place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, carefully pound the breasts to a uniform thickness of about 1/2 inch. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and sauté, turning once, for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer to plate and cover to keep warm. To the same pan, add the shallot and sauté over high heat for 2 minutes until soft. Decrease the heat to medium and add the pears. Continue sautéing, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes until the pears are soft and golden brown.

To prepare the sauce, combine the stock, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour over the pear mixture and add the cherries. Increase the heat to high and simmer, stirring frequently, for 6-8 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and decrease the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Place the chicken on a warmed large platter. With a slotted spoon, mound the fruit over the top. Spoon the sauce over the fruit and around the breasts. Serve immediately.
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