I relish creating dishes that I find in my many cookbooks, using techniques and ingredients I’ve gathered there, plus my own hunches to cook a new dish. These ideas kind of cook in my brain and I use them as jumping off points for fun, creativity, deep satisfaction, and fresh flavors.
I’ve been a fan of chicken for over half a century, dating back to when I watched my mother consume lean chicken, mostly boiled, to avoid too much fat in her diet. I began cooking with chicken early on in my marriage, in my twenties, when a relative introduced me to a recipe using cream of mushroom soup. With a young family, two children and a famished husband, this dish fit my schedule, and was quick and simple. Basically, that recipe uses 2 1/4 cups liquid, such as broth, a creamed soup, Italian dressing, and or some water. Adjust the amounts as you like, but don’t use only water; there is not enough flavor there for that method. Mix these liquids then add one cup of rice, stir well. Next, in a well-greased pan, spread out the mixture. Finally, snuggle eight to ten pieces of boneless and skinless chicken on top of the rice, or use bone and skin on chicken, removing most of the skin which, once cooked, would be rubbery. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked through.
Moving forward over the next fifty years, along with chicken and other dishes, I graduated to more complex dishes, but many easy enough for the home cook. Different foods and seasonings entangle and directions show how anyone can cook a divine chicken dish, upping the flavor profile! Furthermore, there are several opportunities for substitutions, if certain ingredients are not available to you.
INGREDIENTS Serves 4
3 pounds chicken parts, preferrably thighs, excess fat removed
4-5 Yukon potatoes, cut in 1/2-3/4 inch pieces
A half can of black olives, drained
10 cherry tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
4-5 large, plump garlic cloves, peeled and smashed, about 3 Tbsp.
3 tsp herbs, divided – like oregano, basil, winter savory, chives, dill and/or rosemary
1 small lemon, grate the zest, but not the bitter white part beneath the yellow skin
feta or goat cheese – half cup or more, if desired
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbsp fish sauce
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste
1 Dry the chicken parts and let them get to room temperature. In a glass bowl mix the marinade well. Add the chicken parts, stirring to cover. Let them marinade for 3-4 hours, but not overnight. Turn them a few times while they sit covered in the refrigerator or on the counter for half that time.
2 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On a heavy baking pan, lay out parchment paper to cover.
3 Remove the chicken parts from the bowl, draining most of the marinade, but save a few tablespoons in a small bowl. Make a paste with the smashed garlic, 2 tsp of herbs, one teaspon of olive oil, the lemon zest and salt and pepper. Use your fingers to loosen the chicken skin and place about a teaspoon of paste beneath the skin and recover it with the skin, pressing down slightly. Place the chicken, skin side up. on the parchmenet covered baking sheet. Add the potatoes and olives among the chicken pieces. Cook 30-45 minutes, but after the first 15 minutes scatter the tomaotes in some of the open spaces. Baste all ingredients occasionally with pan drippings and a little of the leftover marinade. Turn the chicken once or twice to brown the otherside some. Because of the sweeetness in the marinade, after 25-30 minutes, the foods may darken quite a bit, if so, turn the heat down to 425 degrees, cook a little longer, if necessary. Check for doneness when the temperature reaches 155-160 degrees, or when chicken juices run clear, no pink color. Don’t overcook.
4 Upon removal from the oven, sprinkle on top with feta or goat cheese and some extra oregano.
TIPS AND TWEAKS
- Leave out the olives.
- Replace chicken thighs with breasts, if you prefer And too, if you worry about them drying out some, remove them from the oven a few minutes early.
- Use Guyere cheese, or another good melting one with a nice bite, like, Ricotta salata, or a Mexican variety – Cotija.
- Use a few larger tomatoes, just cut them about the size of cherry tomatoes.
- Leave out the potatoes.