Simple pleasures are best, right? Well, dinner tonight was simple, so I guess that's why it was also the best one I've had in quiet awhile. I made an improvised winter version of a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken thighs. Seasonal swaps included - summery cherry tomatoes for good quality canned Italian ones, and fresh oregano for some rosemary. I made do with skinless chicken this time, although the alternative would have been much better since the recipe called for frying the chicken until three-quarters of the way cooked first. I missed out on crispy skin, but this extra step (rather than just throwing it all in a pan to bake) was such a great idea that I got a good sear on mine and it still turned out delicious. This one's a keeper folks.
A word about chicken. Chicken thighs are the best part of the chicken. I think if you have to choose one part to cook, that's the one you should go with, it's hard to mess up really. It's white meat's, more juicy cousin. The expression, "juicy thighs" must have it's origin from a man who knew his way around a chicken. (Ok, I may have just grossed myself out there, but maybe now you'll remember it). I didn't even realize I really liked chicken until I made the switch to using dark meat after eating one too many chicken strips in salad that tasted no better than styrofoam popcorn.
The genius of this simple recipe is that it is cooked in separate parts almost completely, and then bakes together with a vinaigrette poured over for flavor. The result is crispier chicken and perfect roasted potatoes. It was hearty but not heavy. I finished it with a dash of balsamic vinegar right before I served it because I just love balsamic and rosemary together. It was a success despite the substitutions. This rustic chicken bake is a simple pleasure you should try, but would you mind coming over and doing my dishes for me first? That would be lovely.
Chicken Potato Tomato Bake
Adapted from Jamie at Home, by Jamie Oliver.
1 lb. small potatoes (new potatoes, red potatoes, whatever is in season)
6 boneless chicken thighs, preferably free-range, antibiotic free chicken
1 14oz. can of diced or whole tomatoes, drained of juices
Fresh rosemary, a few sprigs
Red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar
Scrub the potatoes and put them to cook in a pot of boiling, salted water.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Clean chicken and cut each thigh into 2-3 pieces. Put in a bowl and toss to coat with a few tablespoons of olive oil and kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a heavy oven safe skillet and fry chicken, skin side down until almost cooked, about three quarters of the way done. You may need to do this in batches. Don't move the chicken or flip it or you'll lose the sear.
When potatoes are fork-tender, drain and place in a bowl. Lightly smash each one with a fork. Set aside. Drain tomatoes and set aside.
Make the vinaigrette either in a mortar and pestle or finely chop the rosemary and muddle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar, and pepper.
Once all the chicken is cooked, place it all back in the pan with the potatoes and tomatoes tucked in around it. Pour the vinaigrette over the pan and bake in oven for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. Before serving, splash a bit of balsamic vinegar over the dish.