Skillet Chicken Breasts with Corn, Peppers, and Scallions

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Here’s the thing: now that I’m making recipes printable, I feel a new responsibility. I used to just write little essays about how I added a pinch of this and a drop of that and I’m realizing now how useless that was: the people want printable recipes! And I get that because when I first started cooking, I followed recipes to the letter. You want to replicate the image you see in the picture and you want to know exactly how it’s done.

So let me explain the dinner you see before you: I had chicken breasts. I had corn, peppers, onions, scallions, and lots of other vegetables from a recent (terrifying) trip to the grocery store. A few weeks ago, I made an incredible corn dish involving bacon and all of the same vegetables (see here on Instagram). Knowing I had skin-on chicken breasts, I thought: what if I sear the chicken breasts and then cook the corn in the same skillet, working up the brown bits for that same meaty effect?

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Fancy Weeknight Chicken and Cauliflower

Yesterday I went food shopping with my friend Diana. We went to Lassen’s and the produce looked fine, not great, so I grabbed two cauliflowers (cauliflower?) even though it’s the height of summer and I should be buying corn and tomatoes. Then we went across the street to the butcher (McCall’s) and despite the vast array of meat and fish options — short ribs, head-on shrimp — I chose two skin-on chicken breasts because I was just feeling very basic yesterday.

Sometimes, though, the most basic, bland, white ingredients (chicken breasts and cauliflower!) can be canvasses for the creative mind. To quote George Seurat in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George: “White / a blank chicken breast or cauliflower / the challenge? Bring order to the whole.”

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Three Smoke Alarm Chicken, Sausage, and Broccoli Rabe

As far as arrivals to one of my dinner parties go, last night was maybe the most dramatic of all time. I was making a chicken and sausage dish from Nancy Silverton’s under-appreciated cookbook Mozza at Home (I seriously consider it one of the best cookbooks to come out in recent years) and I’d cranked the oven up to 450, despite the fact that some of the liquid had spilled on to the oven floor. Well! That liquid sent PLUMES of smoke out of the oven, so much so that two things happened: all four smoke alarms in our apartment started going off; and the air became noxious with the scents of vinegar and burning. Which is exactly when our guests arrived.

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My Roast Chicken Secrets Revealed

A year or two ago, I got rid of my roasting pan. Not because I’m anti-roasting pan, or because I needed the space, but because I realized that my roasting pan had a non-stick surface and that I’d been scratching it up with a metal spatula over the years and that there was a teensy, tiny chance I’d been exposing myself and my loved ones to carcinogens whenever I roasted a chicken and that we’re all going to die and it’s all my fault.

So these days, when I roast a chicken, I rely on my largest cast iron skillet. Frankly, I think it works better. And I riff on the beloved Thomas Keller roast chicken recipe, the one I’ve been making for the past eight years, combining assorted root vegetables and potatoes and garlic in the bottom of the pan with a splash of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper, and then topping it with a chicken that I stuff with thyme and garlic, also rub with vegetable oil, before sprinkling with lots of salt and pepper. Only, I’ve been much bolder with a certain ingredient to really make my roast chicken shine. Can you guess what it is?

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Chicken Under A Brick (Or A Cast Iron Skillet)

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Scared you, didn’t I? Well I didn’t mean to. It’s funny how many people read my last post and assumed I was ending my blog. That’s not what I said! I just said that my blog was no longer my primary source of income; in many ways, it’s a liberating state of affairs. It means that if I post on here (as I’m doing now) it’s because I have something I’m really eager to share with the world, not just something to fill up space on the internet (like that time I told you that my cake stand is really a punch bowl; though, weirdly, that post really caught on). In any case: chicken under a brick. Have you tried it? If not, why not? I bet I can guess: you’re afraid. I was afraid too. Then, this past Tuesday, I tried it and–I mean this seriously–I don’t think I’ll ever make chicken any other way again.

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Chickened Vegetable Soup

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Let us all acknowledge the truth about roast chicken: it’s not about the chicken, it’s about the vegetables. That truth dawned on me long ago when I used to line a roasting pan with red potatoes sliced in half, all surrounding a well-seasoned chicken; the rendered chicken fat would coat the potatoes, they’d get all crispy, and when it was time to eat, the actual roast chicken was an afterthought. It only got better when I discovered Thomas Keller’s roast chicken: in with the potatoes went leeks, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, and suddenly next to that pretty little bird would be vegetables as beautiful as the crown jewels. Now imagine turning those salty, schmaltzy vegetables into soup, a soup that takes about 5 minutes.

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Mastering The Art of Roast Chicken

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Here was the deal: my favorite roast chicken recipe is this one from Thomas Keller. (Sidebar: I’m currently in San Francisco and last night I ate at Zuni, and as I was leaving the bathroom who did I lock eyes with? Thomas Keller. Turns out he goes to the bathroom too; food gods are just like us!) The problem, though, is that the Thomas Keller roast chicken with root vegetables is an event. It requires that you use your roasting pan; it involves a shopping-cart full of turnips, rutabaga, carrots, onions, and potatoes. It’s not really practical for a weeknight. As for my usual weeknight roast chicken, I’d normally wind up putting the chicken in my All-Clad metal skillet so that I could make a sauce in there afterwards (see here), roasting the vegetables separately. That was OK. Then I remembered my trusty friend the cast iron skillet. What if I did the Keller thing in there? What happened next will astound you (how’s that for an UpWorthy paragraph ender?).

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Chicken with Plums, Zucchini with Almonds

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A few times now I’ve mentioned the technique of searing a chicken breast–skin-on, bone-in–in a skillet with hot olive oil, skin-side down, flipping it over when golden brown, finishing it in the oven, removing it from the pan and making a sauce with the brown bits on the bottom, something to deglaze those brown bits, and a little butter. See: lemon juice and butter, tangerine juice and butter, etc. There’s another technique, though, that I learned from Melissa Clark in writing my cookbook that works very well in this same chicken scenario, even though she taught it to me with duck. That technique is similar to the previous technique only it involves fruit.

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