Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recipe: Quick Weeknight Chicken

Here's one of my favorite quick, hands-off weeknight recipes. The real key to this recipe is that once the pan is in the oven, it needs very little attention. In 45 minutes, you'll have a delicious meal and you only spend about 15 minutes total prepping and tending to it, leaving you free to do other tasks.

Quick Chicken and Potatoes for Two

Note: When shopping, purchase split chicken breasts on the bone. They often go on sale for $1.50 or less per pound in family-sized packs. Re-pack them into individual sandwich bags before freezing. This way, you can grab however many you need out of the freezer.

2 split chicken breasts on the bone (frozen or thawed)
3-4 small red potatoes
any dry spice rub or seasoning (such as Emiril's Essence)
olive oil
salt & pepper

1) Pre-Heat oven to 475 degrees
2) If chicken is frozen, defrost in the microwave 1 minute at a time on high or using your microwave's defrost setting. The objective here is to not cook the chicken. A little white around the outside or fatty areas is okay.
3) Remove the skin and discard. If you like the skin, separate it from the meat with your fingers and apply rub underneath the skin (below).
4) Coat the top of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle on a generous amount of the spice rub. Press the rub into the chicken with your hands to make it stick.
5) Cut potatoes into cubes no more than 1-inch big, leaving the skin on.
6) Put potatoes in the bottom of an oven-safe glass or ceramic baking dish.
7) Drizzle potatoes liberally with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use a broad spoon or your clean hands to toss the potatoes so they are evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
8) Push potatoes aside to make room for chicken in the baking dish and add the chicken. Chicken should touch the bottom of the pan, NOT sit on top of the potatoes. Potatoes should be in one layer. If potatoes are stacked too high, use a bigger pan.
9) Place into the oven and cook until potatoes are brown on all sides and tender in the middle.
10) Return to the oven every 15-20 minutes or so to turn the potatoes. They should begin to stick to the bottom and you should have to scrape them off with a heavy spatula to turn them. This creates that "crunch" you're looking for.
After about 45 minutes, both chicken and potatoes should be done.

Why cook the potatoes in the same pan as the chicken?
The chicken releases juices (not fat...breasts have very little fat in them), which in turn flavors the potatoes. There's no way to duplicate this. Also, it makes this a one-dish meal, which in my book, is a very good thing come cleanup time. If the pan has stuck-on potatoes, let it soak for 20 minutes and they'll come right off.

Can I do this for 4 or 6 people?
Of course. You can simply double or triple the recipe. You'll need a larger pan (perhaps your turkey roaster) or two pans.

Can I use a Metal Pan?
Yes. I recommend glass or ceramic because it holds heat better and cooks more evenly. Metal will work just fine but don't choose something coated for non-stick or you'll scratch it. Also, visit the oven a bit more frequently so the potatoes don't burn.

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