Friday, March 13, 2009
Fire Department Chicken
Last spring, we were traveling a ton for work, bouncing around between London, LA, and France. Sounds glamorous, right? While parts of it were (going to Cannes was incredible) for the most part, I just wanted to be back home in my kitchen. The truth is, five star restaurants lose their luster for me pretty quickly, making me crave the soothing simplicity of a homemade meal.
Which is exactly why I made this lemony roast chicken as soon as we returned home. Comforting but healthful, it somehow signified normalcy and the chance to take a deep breath and relax. I threw it in the broiler as directed, poured myself a glass of wine, and sat down on the couch to bask in the glory of controlling your own dinner.
By the time I had flipped to the second page of my magazine, my apartment had become magically blotted out with smoke. Apparently, that lemon-soaked chicken skin went up in flames just seconds after going into the broiler.
Cue fire alarm number one, prompting me to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, frantically fanning Martha Stewart magazines to poke holes through the blackness. For a second, the smoke seemed to obey, thinning out to the visibility of sheer pantyhose. As soon as I took a deep breath, my ADT alarm began to scream bloody murder.
When ADT called my phone - I quickly explained it was just just broiled chicken - everything was fine! What the dispatcher (who I'm pretty sure was eating a ham sandwich and drinking scotch) failed to tell me, was that New York's finest firefighters were already en route to my apartment.
When I heard the sirens outside, I wanted to flatten myself like a cockroach and disappear under the floorboard out of embarrassment. This was the ilk of men who saved people's lives in 9/11 and here they were, wasting their time on a pan of broiled chicken. It was just broiled chicken, I explained again as they stormed past me into the apartment, donning full on fire gear, then again quietly to myself - it was just broiled chicken...
At this point the blackened breasts were sitting smugly on the counter - mocking evidence of the lack of urgency the situation required. But that didn't stop the guys from doing a full on investigation. About 18 of them charged in, filing into the far ends of the apartment, taking a look around as if it was an open house. "Nice ceilings," one of them said in a Jersey accent. "This is some kinda place," said another. I went from embarassment to guilt to having that vacant, not really there feeling my cat has sometimes when we take her to the vet - sort of a self induced standing coma.
After several minutes of them hanging out, I got worried they were never going to leave, and were possibly wanting some of the blackened chicken as payment. Finally my husband, who had been out running errands, walked in prompting them to head out.
In Kris's words - "As soon as I rounded the corner and saw the fire trucks, I knew it was you."
That was the last time I broiled the damn chicken.
Fire Department Chicken (lemony roasted chicken with fresh herbs and shallots)
* Be sure to marinade at least 8 hours in the fridge and preferably overnight
3-5 chicken breasts, skin-on and bone in
3 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed or roughly chopped
a good handful of mixed and chopped fresh herbs (I like to use a mix of flat leaf parsley, tarragon (2 sprigs), rosemary (1 sprig) and basil) - but any and all herbs are great including cilantro - I just caution you to go easy on stronger ones like rosemary and sage...
2 lemons, juiced and including the zest of one (I like to add the 'spent' lemons to the bag for more flavor
1 teaspoon of Worchesthire sauce
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
couple cracks of fresh black pepper
Add all of the marinade ingredients, sans the chicken, to a large ziploc bag. Seal and shake to make sure all the marinade is well mixed. Add the chicken and squish around to make sure every part is well anointed. Place in the fridge for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight, turning over once halfway through marinating time.
Remove from the fridge one hour before cooking. Turn your oven on 375 and grease a large sheet pan with non-stick spray. Remove the chicken from marinade, shaking to rid it from excess moisture. Place on the sheet, giving each piece its own space to roast and get nice air circulation. LIGHTLY sprinkle with salt and pepper and put in the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350, and roast another 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. If you want to further 'crisp' up the skin, you can crank up the heat to 450 in the last 5 minutes of cooking moving the tray to the highest rack but keep an eye on it!
Let meat rest for 10 minutes before serving, and remember NOT to overcook your chicken. It's better to check it early with a thermometer and find it needs more time, rather than sit down to a dry and stringy piece of meat.
* This is also a great recipe for your grill - you don't have to worry about the fire department in this scenario, either;)