Ice storm. Two little words that I’ve come to respect (and fear) since the big one that hit us in December 2007. When the weather gurus forecast another this past week, we braced ourselves in preparation. Groceries, candles, firewood, cash… and indeed, it arrived. We’re now locked inside, with two happy dogs who don’t quite understand why they can stay in the house all day, snoozing in the comfort of their beds. At least, the 2010 version didn’t disrupt our power, so the fire in our fireplace is for pleasure, not necessity.
This weather calls for comfort food! For the first icy evening, I prepared a recipe from the latest Fine Cooking, described therein as “elegant enough for entertaining, but simple enough to make anytime.” It calls for a cut-up chicken, but I used packaged chicken thighs instead, which are so under-appreciated and inexpensive, but so full of flavor!
CHICKEN THIGHS WITH OLIVES AND LEMON
(adapted from Fine Cooking #103; recipe by Melissa Pellegrino)
6 chicken thighs, bone-in
2 medium lemons
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
3/4 cup jarred brined olives, rinsed, pitted, and halved
6 fresh sage leaves
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp thyme (I used dry, could not find fresh)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350F.
Blot the chicken absolutely dry with a paper towel before you begin, then season it on all sides with salt and pepper.
Cut the ends off the lemon, stand it on one end, carefully peel it, and release the lemon segments from the membranes, dropping them in a small bowl. Cut the segments in two or three pieces.
Heat the butter and the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, cook the chicken skin side down until golden-brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish with the browned side up. Pour off all but 2 Tbs. of the fat. Add the shallots, olives, sage, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and lemon segments, and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the lemony sauce to the roasting pan; cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and increase the heat to 400F for 10 minutes to ensure the skin is crisp (alternatively, run the roasting pan under the broiler for a few minutes).
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: The original recipe “pan-roasts” the chicken. That is, after browning the skin and sauteing the flavor ingredients, the chicken is returned to the pan and placed in a high temperature oven (450F) for 18-20 minutes, or until the meat reached 165F. I’ve cooked chicken this way before and was always disappointed by the results. The high heat toughens the meat, blocking the juicy texture that I enjoy, especially in the thighs. I adapted the recipe for slow-roasting, almost a braise, as covering the pan with foil created the perfect environment.
Pasta dressed with the lemony sauce from the slow-roasting was an excellent side for this dish, that made us forget the icy evening outside. This is a “Perfect Sunday Dinner“, even if the only ice you want to melt is that of a first dinner at home with a special date.
Variations to try: we felt that mushrooms will nicely complement the dish, so next time I’m definitely adding some. Reducing the amount of olives and substituting some capers could work too.