Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chicken Vesuvio

Chicken Vesuvio - made April 13, 2011 from Cover and Bake by the Editors of Cooks' Illustrated (book #85)


No, your eyes aren't deceiving you - this is a "real food" blog entry.  In case it isn't obvious, I've had so much sugar lately that if I cut myself, I wouldn't be surprised if C&H came pouring out of my veins instead of plasma.  Even limiting myself to taste test pieces from everything I make is still a lot of sugar.  So I'm mixing it up with an actual cooking recipe to prove I do eat something besides sugar.  Cover and Bake is yet another recipe book I've had for years and to my memory, have rarely used.  Yeah, I do that a lot.  Hence my baking/cooking challenge.  I probably bought it during one of my "I'm going to learn how to cook even if it kills me" spells.

Cooking is always a production for me.  Whereas I can whip up cupcakes, cakes, brownies, and cookie dough in a blink of an eye, when it comes to cooking, I have to plot and plan far, far ahead.  Chances are I never have the ingredients I need so that involves a trip (or two...or three) to the grocery store.  It involves thawing stuff because I'll be all fired up to cook something, buy the protein ingredient, then the urge to cook passes and I throw the stuff in the freezer until I feel like tackling the recipe.  Honestly, you wouldn't think it'd be so hard but I have a mental block when it comes to cooking.  If it can't be microwaved and eaten as is, chances are I don't really eat it.  I do make some attempts to cook every once in awhile though and this is another one of those sporadic efforts.

Before I saw this recipe, I'd never heard of Chicken Vesuvio.  According to the editors of Cooks' Illustrated, it's popular in Chicago's Italian restaurants and refers to chicken and potato wedges baked in a sauce of garlic, white wine and herbs.  Sounds easy enough to do and, more importantly, had ingredients I would actually eat and not take (too many) liberties in leaving out, thereby changing the recipe drastically from what the cookbook authors intended.  Okay, yeah, I do that too.  This time around though, the most drastic thing I did was use only half the chicken and potatoes called for in the recipe while making a full recipe of the sauce.  No particular reason why other than I'd rather err on the side of too much sauce instead of too little.

Turns out I'm glad I did make a full recipe of the sauce because between reducing it and baking the reduction in the oven, the sauce almost dried up.  If I had only made a half recipe, I think the dish would've been bone dry.  As it was, it was pretty tasty to my simple taste buds used to Lean Cuisine meals and pasta sauce from a jar.  I did reduce the oven temp to 400 degrees once I put the chicken in with the potatoes though as I didn't want the outside of the chicken to burn while the inside wasn't cooked yet.  It's not gourmet food by a long shot but it was a nice little chicken and potato dish that was just my cooking speed.

3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ¾-inch wedges
4 split, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, (about 10-12 ounces each), trimmed
5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 lemon, cut into wedges

1.     Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 475⁰F.  Grease a 9 x 13” baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the oil then sprinkle the dish evenly with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil.  Arrange the potatoes in the baking dish in a single layer, with a cut side flush against the bottom of the pan.  Lean any extra potato wedges up against the sides of the pan.  Roast until the potatoes are just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.  Do not stir the potatoes.
2.    Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat until smoking.  Dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper.  Carefully lay the chicken breasts, skin-side down, in the skillet and cook to a deep golden color, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.
3.    Pour off any fat left in the skillet.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering.  Add the garlic, thyme, and oregano; cook, stirring often until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine and broth and bring to a simmer, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4.    Pour half of the sauce evenly over the potatoes.  Lay the chicken, skin-side up, on top of the potatoes.  Roast until the juices run clear when the chicken is cut with a paring knife, or the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 30 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Use a metal spatula to release and transfer the potatoes to the platter.  Serve immediately, passing the extra sauce and lemon wedges separately.

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