Lemon Butter Chicken with White Beans

What you see above is one of my favorite meals I’ve ever made at home. It came about rather organically: after raving about Rancho Gordo beans in this post from last week, I went back to Cookbook (the store where I bought that first bag) and stocked up on more.

Of the many beans that I bought (five bags in total), the ones that seemed the most versatile were these white flageolets:


The morning of this chicken dinner–which happened to be Friday morning–I poured that bag of beans into a bowl, covered them in cold water, put plastic on top and left for the day.

When I came back in the late afternoon, I drained the beans and put them in a pot with fresh cold water, an unpeeled onion (cut in half), a whole carrot, a whole stalk of celery and a bay leaf. I brought it to a simmer and cooked the beans like that for about two hours, until they were creamy and tender. Then I strained them again, saving their liquid for later:


The other element of this dish–the chicken–hatched in my head (sorry for that) after dining with one of Craig’s colleagues, a woman named Erica who told me that she makes her chicken by keeping it simple: “I cut out the back bone, salt and pepper it, cook it skin-side down in a skillet, flip it over when it’s brown, finish it in the oven and then make a sauce using butter and lemon.”

I thought that process would work especially well with the beans; the butter and lemon sauce (infused with chicken bits) would help make the beans even more decadent.

So here’s how this all went down:

I cut the backbone out of the chicken (wrapped it in plastic and froze it for stock or soup) and seasoned the chicken with lots of salt and pepper:


Notice the Negroni in the background–Craig made that for me while I cooked, which I thought was nice.

Ok, here’s where I got a little crazy. I heated olive oil in a skillet until it was very hot, and then put the chicken in breast-side down. Attempting to fuse this technique together with the “chicken under a brick” technique I’ve heard much about, I put a cast iron skillet on top:


This wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but the problem was that the chicken that I bought–a four pounder–was too large. So the skillet didn’t do much on top. No matter: after five minutes or so, I used tongs to flip the chicken over and it was looking good (even if I lost some skin along the way):


Into a 425 oven that went, and then I set about preparing the beans. Into a Dutch oven, I added olive oil, heated it, and then added diced onions, carrots and celery with a pinch of salt. When they’d softened a bit (after five minutes) I made a bold decision: I added 3 cloves of chopped garlic and two anchovies.


I thought the umami from the anchovies would play nicely off the lemon butter sauce–similar elements that go into a Caesar salad, minus the Parmesan.

When the anchovies melted, I added the beans and some of their cooking liquid:


I let them simmer, gently, for 30 minutes or so, until most of the liquid evaporated; then I adjusted with salt, pepper and lemon juice until they tasted wonderful. After spending about 30 to 40 minutes in the oven, I removed the chicken and took its temperature between the leg and thigh:


At 165, I knew it was done.

At this point, dinner pretty much made itself. I removed the chicken to a cutting board and carefully returned the pan (with its super hot handle) to the stove, where I put it on a burner and added a pat of butter:


When the butter melted, I added the juice from one lemon, raised the heat and scraped with a wooden spoon until the butter, lemon juice and chicken bits emulsified into a sauce. I tasted it and SHAZAM: how could I not know about this technique of adding butter and lemon juice to a chickeny pan? This makes all my other chicken pan sauces look like chumps.

With the back bone removed, the chicken was easy to cut into legs, thighs, wings, and breast pieces. I spooned the beans on to two plates, put on some pieces of chicken, spooned the sauce over everything and sprinkled with parsley:


Allow me to reiterate: this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever made at home. It’s simple, true, but each element here combined to form a powerful, unforgettable plate of food. I can’t wait to make it again.

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