When I attempt to produce any sort of creative work, there’s often a lot of “what I should have produced” that holds me back from sharing the actual thing that I did produce. No clear picture of a dish? Well, then scrap the entire post. And then I have to remind myself that Nigel Slater writes these great little essays about food for the Observer, and rarely do I ever need to see a picture…to get the picture. No, I’m not comparing myself to Nigel here. Just giving myself a little pep talk. So here’s dinner, from a few days back.
Trader Joe’s has these boneless skinless organic free range chicken thighs, and they are my kitchen salvation, despite their only flaw – a lack of delicious chicken skin. While not the whole chickens from the farm that I’d get in San Francisco (sigh…), these chicken thighs are my favorite quick chicken option – because they have taste, they cook quickly, and they are forgiving if you forget them on the heat a little too long. Also, admittedly I do not love having to cut off the head and feet of my chickens before eating them, sorry. Also, while I very much enjoy roasting whole chickens, I do not enjoy eating whole chickens, mostly because I think that white meat is a waste of time. It’s all about the thighs, guys. All about the thighs. Because everyone seems to need another recipe for chicken in the rotation, here’s what I did this week.
This is more of a method that I use, and I’m not sure that it’s the best method, but it’s quick and easy. Basically, it’s taking a fat of some sort, browning the chicken on one side for a few minutes, then popping the lid on the pan to steam it a little bit. Then you flip them in the fat, cook a little more, add some vegetables, cover the lid, steam those, take the lid off, cook a few minutes more and by the end you get sort of crispy chicken that’s caramelized, and soft vegetables. I do this most often with pancetta, chicken and greens. But you don’t have pancetta, you could use bacon, or even salami. And you could choose whatever vegetable you’d like, providing it doesn’t take too long to cook. (Or you could pre-steam it.)
In my large All-Clad skillet, I tossed in 4 ounces of cubed Citerrio pancetta (the small container they sell at Trader Joe’s), and turned the heat to medium to cook it slowly and let the fat start rendering out, about 5 minutes. Then, I seasoned my raw chicken thighs (about 1.5 lbs.) with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (yep, the powder…), pushed the pancetta cubes to one side and put the chicken in the melted fat in the center of the skillet. I then added a few springs of fresh thyme, turned the heat to medium high, and covered the lid for five minutes. The bottom of the chicken seared to golden while the top part steamed, and then I flipped the chicken, making sure to let the oil from the pancetta coat the surface of the pan before laying the chicken down. I cooked another five minutes, added an entire 12 ounces of shredded brussels sprouts, and covered the lid again, until the sprouts were tender, about four minutes – I tossed everything together, and that was dinner. (If you eat cheese, you can add a little of that in at the end too – a bit of brie, or gorgonzola, or if you are on a Trader Joe’s binge, a few laughing cow garlic herb wedges – they have those too.)