A Disappointment.

The ingredients were so promising: Apple cider! Maple syrup! Star anise! Garlic! I’d held onto this recipe from the New York Times for nearly four years, and every time I flipped past it in my files, I paused and sighed. Maple Chicken ‘n’ Ribs. Such a cozy, homey-sounding meal. Perfect for winter weather, I thought, even though originally published in April. I finally gave it a try, and while it’s possible that nothing could measure up to such anticipation, I’m going out on a limb here and pronouncing this, sadly and with no offense to Ms. Lawson, a big ol’ miss.

Maple Chicken 'n' Ribs

The good news: It made my apartment smell fantastic, and a peek into the oven revealed nicely crisping chicken skin. The bad: The combination of the marinade and the released juices from the ribs resulted in more of a poach than a roast. (Maybe my pan’s fault—hey, it’s possible that Nigella’s “large roasting pan” is twice the size of mine. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.) To fix, I tossed the ribs under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to get that crackly exterior and sat down to dig in.

The meat was tender, but overpoweringly sweet—two tablespoons of soy sauce wasn’t nearly enough to balance out the prescribed apple cider, maple syrup and cinnamon. I’d do equal parts syrup and soy, I think, if this were a recipe worth trying again. The only thing that saved the meal from being a complete disappointment was this tasty side dish.

Finished plate

Maple Chicken ‘n’ Ribs

The New York Times
Nigella Lawson

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus up to 2 days’ marinating

1 cup apple cider or juice, as sharp as possible
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
8 pork spareribs
6 chicken thighs with skin and bone

1. In a pitcher or mixing bowl whisk together the apple cider, maple syrup, vegetable oil and soy sauce. Add star anise, cinnamon stick, garlic and hot pepper flakes.

2. In a large freezer bag or bowl combine pork and chicken. Pour in the apple cider mixture, and seal bag or cover bowl. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

3. Remove marinated mixture from refrigerator, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Pour contents of bag or bowl (including liquid) into a large roasting pan. Turn chicken pieces skin side up.

4. Roast until chicken is opaque throughout and ribs are tender, about 1 1/4 hours; 35 to 40 minutes into roasting turn ribs over, but leave chicken skin side up. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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