This week's column is written by Perry Close, who graduated in May from CNC's Professional Cook certificate program.
During my time in the professional cook program at CNC, I used cinnamon primarily in desserts, such as apple pie and cinnamon torte. However, I've been surprised at how well the spice can work when used to flavour main course items.
Cinnamon is one of the world's oldest and most widely used spices in the world.
It is obtained from the bark of a small evergreen tree, which is part of the Lauraceae family originating in Sri Lanka. From as early as 2000 BC, it was imported to Egypt.
Cinnamon is even referenced in the Bible -- first with Moses being commanded to use it as an ingredient in Holy annointing oil, and Proverbs, in which the spice is used to perfume the lover's bed. In ancient times, cinnamon was highly regarded as an appropriate gift for monarchs as well as gods.
It may be unknown to some, that common store-bought cinnamon is rarely the original Ceylon or "true" cinnamon. In the West, most store-bought cinnamon is either Cassia, or Cinnamomum Burmannii -- two related spices. Now primarily imported by Mexico, ceylon cinnamon is more suitable for the preparation of desserts, as cassia has a harsher flavour.
The most appealing quality of this spice may be its versatility. Not only used in a variety of desserts, it is used in teas, liquors, and as an ingredient in savoury chicken and lamb dishes. It can also be used in a variety of thick soups, drinks and as a pickling ingredient. The essential oil in cinnamon has antimicrobial properties, which aid in the preservation of some foods. The bark of Ceylon cinnamon can even be eaten directly on its own.
This common spice also has a wide range of health benefits. Studies have shown that just half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol. Many studies suggest that it may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making cinnamon beneficial to those with Type 2 diabetes. It is also known to have an anti-clotting effect on the blood.
Whether used in chicken or pork, cinnamon is a delicious alternative to more typically used herbs such as sage or rosemary. Here is an easy recipe for Marinated Chicken with Cinnamon.
Marinated Chicken with Cinnamon
This chicken is marinated with cinnamon and honey to give it a sweet flavour. When combined with the curry powder and put on the grill you get a wonderful southeast Asian chicken flavour. As honey tends to burn easily, keep the grill temperature low.
1 fryer chicken, cut into pieces
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 tbsp honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic salt
Combine dry sherry, honey, cinnamon, curry powder and garlic salt in a bowl and mix. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish and coat evenly with marinade. Place in refrigerator and let sit for at least one hour.
Preheat grill. Remove chicken from marinade and place chicken pieces on grill over medium fire and grill for about 10 to 12 minutes per side. Because of the honey in the marinade for this recipe, you will need to keep a close eye on the chicken while it is grilling to be sure it doesn't burn. Remove chicken from grill when done and serve.