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Passion fruit is something I’ve always seen at the local whole foods and central market grocery stores, but never cooked with. They are basically big pods filled with seeds, and there isn’t really any flesh to eat aside from the seed ridden pulp, but the smell and flavor of the pulp is extremely fragrant and unique. The juice and pulp from passion fruits are usually turned to syrup and used as a flavoring agent than consumed straight up.

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In researching recipes for a small dinner get together, I found one featuring chicken breasts marinated in passion fruit juice and other herbs, and it inspired me to do a whole Afro-Middle Eastern style menu. Instead of using chicken breasts, I substituted Cornish hens. A half Cornish hen is about the same size as a chicken breast nowadays, but has a more delicate and tender flavor than chicken. I halved the hens by cutting out its back bone, and splitting them through the middle of the breast.

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The marinade is made from a mix of passion fruit pulp, lime juice, orange juice, basil, thyme, ginger, garlic and rosemary. The ingredients are mixed together in a large resealable freezer bag, and the Cornish hen halves are added to the bag and left in the fridge overnight.

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When I was ready to cook the chicken, I removed the birds from the bags and scraped off as much marinade as possible. I seasoned the birds with salt and pepper, and seared them in an ovenproof cast iron pan, skin side down, for about 3 minutes, until nicely browned.

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The hens are flipped and cooked for an additional minute.

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The pan is placed in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, and then the hens removed and rested for another 5 minutes for its juices to reconstitute.

To make the passion fruit vinaigrette that is used as a sauce on the chicken as well as the salad dressing, 1 cup of orange juice is reduced in a small sauce pan to about 2 tablespoons. Make sure you watch the sauce pan when the juice gets syrupy, as it can quickly burn when it gets to that stage. The final orange juice syrup should be thick and golden.

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Passion fruit pulp, Thai chiles, shallots, lime juice, ginger, and honey are whisked into the orange syrup.

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Then olive oil is whisked into the vinaigrette until emulsified, and the dressing is finished off with salt and pepper.

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The vinaigrette is drizzled all over the chicken, and you can reserve some for a simple green salad.

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Chicken with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette

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