Thursday, July 25, 2013

One Awesome Pan: Roasted Mediterranean Chicken

Easy.

I'm not a huge proprietor of easy. My recipes tend to sometimes go on for ages. (See example here) Ages.
I just like a bunch of complex flavors, that compliment one another, and sometimes they tend to take some... well, time to make. The end result is usually totally worth it, and I end up with something ridiculously scrumptious, but as complicated as the dickens. Not so here.

I found myself this evening staring at chicken thigh and drumstick quarters, completely dumbfounded as to what to make. I have a thousand dry ingredients, but none of them meshed, giving me culinary anxiety. I hummed and hawed, wondering how to turn these simple cuts of poultry into something fantastic and blog-worthy. I thought of Mediterranean chicken, but refused, simply because I wanted a knockout combo. A smack your auntie in the jowls kind of ingredient that would command attention. Alas, I found no such thing. However, when I saw the 2 kinds of olives in my fridge winking at me from a chilly afar, I succumbed to that first idea that popped into my noggin.

These already tasty veggies have no idea what's in store for them - Next level deliciousness. 


Then I also thought, "Hey, I don't always have time to whip up an eight course meal every night! Maybe some folks would like a simple, one pan recipe that is affordable, easy, and absolutely flavor packed." People like that stuff right? Even if they don't, I plan to be a pioneer in that area. I'm sure there isn't anyone who has gotten fame and fortune from cooking simple, easy meals. Right?

Riiiight. So I'll probably stick with my shtick of massive flavor, but for now, bask in this simple recipe, that contains one dish, and is done within 1.5 hours, with minimal chopping. The chicken for this dish cost me a bit over 5 bucks, and everything else I had in my pantry. My pantry is small, but massively diverse, I just buy a small bit of everything. Thank goodness I do, because without all those goodies in there, this simple, quick, and super tasty recipe might never have made it to your table!

We use dark meat chicken in this recipe, and, as big of a brining advocate as I am, we don't have to do it in this here recipe. A couple of reasons;
- Dark meat poultry retains just massive amounts of moisture compared to it's white and dry counterparts
- The salt from the various brined items we add to the recipe, more than make up for any salt needed to be added.
Thus, we make a trip to the store to get some tasty chicken quarters, maybe a bit of white wine, and go home to knock out some Mediterranean chicken, right in the teeth, and in one freakin' pan.

Ingredients:
4 thigh and drumstick chicken quarters
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
grated parmesan cheese
1 large leek, cleaned thoroughly
3 T. olive oil
1 T. dried oregano
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes
1 c. quartered mushrooms
1/2 c. pitted castelvetrano olives
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives
1/4 c. capers
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. white wine

Directions:

  1. Please, for the love of all things good and right in the world, make sure your leeks are completely dirt free. Otherwise you will have a bad culinary experience. Also, if you want the chicken cooking time to be about half, you can separate the thigh from the drumstick as well, before cooking.
  2. Let your chicken sit out at room temp for about an hour. That will even out the cooking temperature, as well as let them air dry for a bit. Season them evenly with salt, pepper, and then sprinkle the parmesan cheese diligently on them. Crank your oven to 425. 
  3. Cut your leek into 2 large halves, then split them lengthwise. Rinse them one more time for posterity. Oil the bottom of your baking dish with some of the olive oil, and place your leeks evenly spaced across it. Try to use a larger baking pan, even a disposable, so you have plenty of room to cook the chicken. 
  4. Take pretty much everything else, and put it in the roasting pan around the leeks. Pour the remaining olive oil and make sure everything is mixed well and coated. Barely season the veggies in the pan, since the capers and olives are basking in salt, and will season the mushrooms, leeks, and tomatoes very thoroughly through the cooking process. 
  5. Place each chicken quarter over a half of leek. Try to space the chicken so they don't touch each other. They might get cooties. Also, any piece that is touching each other won't cook as well, and the skin won't crisp up as it should. Take all that goodness, and throw it in your oven on the shelf closest to the heat source. (usually the bottom.)
  6. Cook for an hour. Check the temperature of the chicken at the thickest part, and see how much longer it will take to get to about 170 degrees. Set the timer for anywhere between 20 or 30 more minutes, and turn the temperature down to about 375. Keep checking until it temps at 170. 
  7. Once up to temperature, pull from oven, and let sit for about 10 minutes to cool. You also can cut the pieces at this point, separating drumstick from thigh, or just serve one big 'ol chicken piece. Take all that awesomeness at the bottom of the pan, and slather it over top the chicken to serve. 
  8. You can also sprinkle feta cheese on at this point to add some temperature and texture difference. Serve w/ some lemon orzo salad, or a similar side, and enjoy!
Enjoy the tastiness before you. The braised leeks are melt-in-your mouth fantastic, absorbing all the olive/chicken/salt flavors, and are like a side unto themselves. The chicken should be crispy on the outside, and nice and tender on the inside, with enough flavor that with complement the ingredients. And the tomatoes are little tart and sweet flavor bombs, like individual packets of fresh sauce.


Salty, tender, crispy, and ridiculously easy.  

After some deliberation, I think I might try to make this a feature of the blog, doing gloriously tasty meals, all in one pan, for those nights where a bunch of chopping, or making 40 different sauces just won't do. So I'll tag this recipe with "One Awesome Pan" and hopefully get some subsequently awesome recipes from it. Already have some ideas up my sleeves.