Pineapple Sweet Potato Teriyaki Chicken and Rice

pineapple-sweet-potato-teriyaki-chicken

I love fresh pineapple! Sprouts had some on sale for $1 last weekend. When I buy fresh pineapple it is usually green and under-ripe. In order to determine if the pineapple is ripe, some people recommend pulling a leaf from the center of the pineapple. If the leaf comes out easily, the fruit is ripe. I’ve never really found that technique helpful. When I select a pineapple, I pick one that feels heavy for its size. Pick up several pineapples and compare them in weight. Next, look at the bottom of the pineapple. If you see mold (fuzzy white stuff) on the bottom in the center of the fruit, avoid it. The fruit will taste funny. If the pineapple is still pretty green when you buy it, take it home and leave it on your counter for a few days. It may take up to a week to ripen. You will know it is ripe when the skin has turned a brownish gold color and the fruit smells sweet. It is hard to wait for those golden delicious beauties to ripen, but trust me, the fruit will be so much sweeter!

When it is time to cut the pineapple, I start by placing the fruit upright on a cutting board. With my left hand, I hold the pineapple at the top at the base of the leaves. Starting from the top, I trim off the skin in big chunks, trying to leave as much fruit as possible but cutting out the prickly eyes. Don’t worry if you don’t all of the eyes, you can cut those out later. When the skin is off, I turn the pineapple on to its side and trim off the bottom. Finally, I decide whether I want to slice the pineapple into rings or spears. (If you want the fibrous center of the pineapple removed, cut it in spears.) If you slice the pineapple into rings, leave the top of the pineapple on and slice the pineapple horizontally into rings. If you slice the pineapple into spears, trim the top off first. Then return the fruit to a vertical position. Locate the fibrous center of the pineapple. Cutting as close to the center as possible, run your knife from top to bottom, creating a rectangular shaped cut. Turn the pineapple 90 degrees and cut again. Do this until you have 4 rectangular slices of pineapple, and only the pineapple core remains. Discard the core. Slice the rectangular pineapple pieces into spears.

Whatever you do, don’t throw those pineapple skins away!!! One day I thought, “Man, I wish there was a way to use these pineapple skins.” Even if you trim the pineapple as close to the skin as you can, you lose some fruit. I was making a pan of chicken teriyaki that night, and I had this great idea. I lay the pineapple skins fruit side down over the chicken before baking. While the chicken baked, the juices left in the pineapple skins oozed out tenderizing and sweetening the chicken. Oh, my! I will never throw those pineapple skins away again!

Today I share my recipe for Pineapple Sweet Potato Teriyaki Chicken and Rice. Unlike most teriyaki chicken recipes, this one derives its sweetness from the pineapple juice and sweet potatoes instead of a cup of sugar. Serve this over brown rice for a yummy meal. Feel free to use boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs, but the flavor and juices from the dark meat of chicken thighs really adds depth to the dish.

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3lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger or fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. sriracha (optional, but it only adds a little heat)
1 fresh, ripe pineapple, cut into chunks, skins reserved
1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
2 cups uncooked brown rice (I like short grain brown rice, but long grain is good too.)

Prepare the brown rice according to package directions.While the rice cooks, prepare the chicken.

Place the chicken thighs on the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass baking dish. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sriracha. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Add the cubed sweet potatoes and pineapple chunks to the pan. Arrange the pineapple skins, fruit side down, over the chicken. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft. Serve over the brown rice.

*This recipe can be prepared the night before, refrigerated, and baked the next day. The chicken will really soak up the flavor of the marinade.

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