A fall dinner full of flavor to welcome in October: spicy maple mustard chicken with creamy polenta. Chicken thighs are pan-seared in a skillet until crisp and juicy, then coated in a really flavorful sweet and spicy glaze, and served over creamy white cheddar polenta with caramelized butternut squash & wilted greens alongside. It’s a fun, healthy-ish meal that’s every bit as delicious as it is satisfying.
spicy maple mustard chicken – the details
You’ll start by cooking the chicken in a hot skillet. I’m using my standard method for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs – slowly crisping the skin for about 8 minutes and then flipping to quickly finish cooking on the other side.
I love chicken thighs because it’s pretty hard to overcook them and they typically always turn out really juicy and tender. Plus, the glaze spooned over the crispy skin is extremely tasty.
But of course, you can swap them out for boneless, skinless chicken breasts if you’d like (just sear them in the skillet over medium heat until golden on both sides and cooked through).
After the chicken is cooked, you’ll use the same skillet to cook the butternut squash. The key is to slice the squash fairly thin (check out the notes section of the recipe for a full explanation on how to cut the squash). This allows it to caramelize and become tender in under 10 minutes.
To give the meal extra heartiness, I added in some wilted greens to go along with the squash. Both of these are kept warm while the glaze quickly comes together.
And trust me, you won’t be able to get enough of this sauce! It’s made with browned butter, red fresno chili peppers, whole grain mustard, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar. The combination of flavors and the glazy consistency is addicting…not too spicy, but definitely has a kick from those peppers. The nutty butter, tangy mustard, and rich maple syrup balances it out perfectly.
The chicken and vegetables get generously coated in this sticky sauce and are served over creamy polenta, which comes together really simply and is flavored with thyme and white cheddar cheese.
It’s all just so good together and makes for one delicious autumn meal!
If you’re looking for more fall dinner recipes, here are a few to try:Print
Spicy Maple Mustard Chicken with Creamy Polenta
pan-roasted chicken thighs glazed in a spicy maple mustard sauce and served over creamy white cheddar polenta with butternut squash & wilted greens
Spicy Maple Mustard Chicken
- 1 ¾ lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 (2 ½ lb) butternut squash, peeled + sliced ¼” (see notes)
- 1 bunch swiss chard, stemmed + roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 red fresno chili pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 3 ½ cups water
- 1 small handful fresh thyme sprigs (tied in kitchen twine)
- 1 cup polenta
- ½ lb sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 tbsp butter
- Let the chicken thighs sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Heat a 12” cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Season the chicken well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- When the oil is hot, place the chicken skin-side down into the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the skin is golden and crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Flip the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Add the sliced butternut squash to the skillet over medium heat. Cook for about 8 minutes until caramelized, stirring & flipping the squash slices often so they don’t burn. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 more minutes. Add a 1/4 cup of water, cover the skillet with a lid, and cook for another 5 minutes or so until tender. Season well and transfer to a plate.
- Raise the heat to medium. Drizzle in a little more olive oil. Add the swiss chard and apple cider vinegar. Quickly saute for about a minute. Season well and transfer the greens to the plate of squash. Cover with foil to keep warm.
- Add the butter and chili peppers to the skillet. Allow the butter to melt and slightly brown as the peppers cook. Stir in the mustard, maple syrup, and remaining 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the chicken back to the skillet, skin-side up. Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the sauce and warm the chicken.
- Meanwhile, make the polenta. Add the water, thyme and a pinch of salt to a 2qt saucepan. Bring to a boil. Whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the polenta is tender, stirring often. Remove the thyme. Stir in the cheddar and butter until melted.
- Spoon the polenta onto a large platter. Arrange the squash, greens, and chicken over the polenta. Spoon all the remaining sauce over top. Garnish with any extra thyme leaves and more freshly cracked black pepper.
For the butternut squash: I find it easiest to first cut the whole butternut squash into half crosswise, right above where the squash rounds outward. From here, you can stand each half upright and use a sharp knife to cut off the skin. Then, cut each half in half again, this time lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds using a large spoon. Cut the top half into ¼” slices. Cut the bottom half down the middle and then cut it into ¼” slices from there (use the photo above for reference).