Hens Provençal

hens provencal Doesn’t it sounds so much classier when I call them “hens”? They’re chickens. Whatever. This recipe represents one point on a epicurean function to which I’d like to introduce you. This function takes the form
Dinner = chicken + olive oil + salt + pepper + x
In this case, we’re solving for x = Herbs de Provençe.

Serves: 4 leisurely Frenchmen
Total kitchen time: the French don’t care, why should you?

Shopping list:

  • 1 large chicken (though you could just as well use cornish hens, a duck, pigeon, or my dad’s rooster Lucky)
  • 3 tbsp good olive oil
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Provençe (I could tell you what’s in it, but you’re gonna buy the pre-made stuff anyway. No harm done)
  • Salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Side note: Since we don’t have a lot of ingredients working here, I thought I’d take a moment to comment on the importance of salt and pepper. Please, please, please don’t settle for table salt and pepper that looks like gunpowder. IMHO, they’re not the same. If you’re only going to buy one “specialty” salt, pick up a box of Kosher Salt. You don’t have to be Jewish to buy it and the checkout clerk won’t ask you about Passover. Then, get some fresh black pepper (it comes in bb-sized balls) and a grinder. Some spice isles even have a small grinder preloaded for like $6 bucks. Your tongue will thank you.

  1. Anyway… Preheat your oven to 425F. Set the rack to the middle position.
  2. Quarter the chicken. Season the pieces with olive oil, salt, pepper and Herbs de Provençe.
  3. Heat a large, heavy, oven-proof skillet (may I suggest cast iron) over high heat until it is pretty rocket-hot. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, making sure you have enough room to fit them all in. Cook over high heat for about a minute. This is our crisp skin insurance.
  4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the fattest part of the breast registers 150F. Flip the pieces over so they are skin side up. Raise the heat to a broil and cook about 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let rest several minutes before serving.

Not feeling completely French yet? Try adding some savory carrots, a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine. Viva la gastration!

Diner Food: Chicken Fingers

chicken fingers Look, I’m all for haute cuisine. In fact, I’m tempted to lie and tell you that the picture to the right is pan-fried Fijiian oysters with julienned pommes de terre and saffron aioli. But it’s not. It’s chicken fingers and cheese fries. Sometimes you just want comfort food.

Makes: you forget you’ve ever been to Denny’s
Total kitchen time: 45 mins

Shopping list:

  • 1-1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 box Corn Flakes (plain, no raisin or strawberry BS)
  • 1 tbsp rosemary (I used dried for this recipe, but fresh works too)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Trim the chicken thighs, removing any excess fat. Cut into 1″ strips and place in a baking dish. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken and add the paprika and buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate 30 mins.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 and adjust the top rack so it is 6-8″ from the top heating element.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients (Corn Flakes -pepper) in a food processor. Pulse a few times, but not too many that you end up with dust. Keep the mixture coarse for crispiness.
  4. Spread 1/2 of the Corn Flake mixture on a plate. One by one, shake the chicken pieces dry and roll in the breading, coating thoroughly. Arrange on a greased or non-stick baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping once. When 15 minutes is up, if they don’t look crispy, set your oven to broil and watch them closely (about 2-3 minutes).

Serve with french fries (tossed with crumbled blue cheese and sea salt) and home-made BBQ sauce (sorry blog readers, I’ll never tell!).

Cuban Chicken with Fried Plantains and Candied Jalapeno Slaw

cuban chicken This is a meal befitting a communist dictator – or you! Now that the weather is warming up, I can’t help but crave the tangy, refreshing flavors of lime, mint and cilantro. This is an easy, rewarding meal that makes you want to forfeit your civil rights and float on a door to paradise.

Serves: 2 baseball loving Yanks
Total Kitchen Time: 40 mins

Shopping List:

  • 1 whole organic, free-range, hormone-free, sustainably-farmed, middle-class, democratic chicken
  • *Special equipment: cast iron skillet or oven-proof skillet

Marinade:

  • 1 small onion
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cilantro
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in your food processor or blender. If you don’t have either, I hope you have a sharp knife and patience.
  2. Butterfly the chicken by removing the spine with kitchen shears and cracking the sternum with your hands. For more information, get Jacques Pepin’s book. I know you won’t.
  3. Marinate the chicken from 0-8 hours (really, you can just brush this stuff on) making sure both sides of the bird are nicely coated.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 and set the rack to the middle-top position. Get your skillet nice and hot and give it a minute to retain the heat.
  5. Place the bird, breast side down, in the skillet and cook about 3 minutes. Transfer the whole skillet to the oven and cook until the thickest part of the meat reads 145 on your thermometer (about 20 minutes).
  6. Flip the bird over and crank your oven up to broil. Broil 5-7 minutes, or until the skin is crispy and brown. Let stand 5-10 minutes before carving.

Candied Jalapeno

  • 5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  1. Pour the sugar and water into a small sauce pan over high heat.
  2. When the water starts to boil, add the sliced jalapeno. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook about 15 minutes. Don’t let the sugar reach the soft boil stage – it should stay slightly watery even at the end.
  3. Transfer jalapeno slaw to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Fried Plantains:

  • 4 plantains, cut into 1/2 in sections (you can substitute bananas if you want)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the sliced plantains, brown sugar and cinnamon. Saute, flipping to coat with butter, about 15 minutes.