ICON Solar House Adventures in Dinner Parties

Food Maven Patrice Johnson reflects on cooking in the ICON Solar House kitchen at the Solar Decathlon.

Patrice in the kitchen. Cooking for the ICON solar house dinner parties is not like cooking at home. There is, of course, a fabulous 4-burner Wolf induction cook top, a Meile convection oven large enough to cook a 20 pound turkey and all the trimmings, plus counter and storage space that cause many of the touring public to "ooooh" and "ahhhh." Every window in the house provides a fabulous view of the National Mall and the other gorgeous homes within the Solar House village. There is the presence of our bright, devoted team members who manage to keep their sense of work ethic and humor despite having more than a few hours of sleep each night during the decathlon.
There are, however, other less happy differences. For example, while in testing mode on The Mall the refrigerator, sink, and dish washer are not accessible. But the biggest challenge for this cook thus far was arriving at the ICON house Friday afternoon, Minnesota Pizza Night menu in place and ingredients at the ready, and discovering that the judges expected our Harvest Moon menu for that evening's dinner party. Of course, not much excites me more than a challenge and an adventure! Ann, our fearless leader, and I jumped into the UMN Prius, battled congested DC traffic, purchased missing menu items, retrieved my lucky meat thermometer, and arrived back at the ICON house with minutes to spare before the 2 hour prep time began.
Audrey kicked into action chopping vegetables and making apple crisp, Shengyin served sparkling apple cider to guests as they arrived, and appetizers were presented on the beautiful deck table exactly at 7 PM. Phew.
Honey Maple BBQ Glazed Chicken (serve with sweet potato puree) 8 generous servings
1 cup honey
1 cup maple syrup
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (optional)
4 tablespoons cold butter (optional)
Cumin, dry mustard, garlic salt, and pepper to taste
8 chicken breasts

Heat all ingredients except chicken over medium heat. Simmer 20 minutes.
Puree with hand emersion tool or blender. Blend in butter until melted and
completely emulsified.

Season chicken with cumin, dry mustard, garlic salt, and pepper. Saute
until browned both sides of chicken, (saute in small batches so as not to
crowd pan). Place chicken in single layers in large pan, glazing liberally
with BBQ. Back at 350 for 20-30 minutes until thermometer reads 165. Serve
with any remaining BBQ on the side.