Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chicken Under A Brick

Clearly I've been absent from the blog for some time. And to those who have continued to check in, I say thank you. It's your patience and tolerance for my gallivanting outside of the confines of my own kitchen that allows me to find inspiration for new dishes. Although I've been obscenely busy with work, side jobs and random other activities, I must say that barely having the time to think, let alone cook, has somehow led to the discovery of my new favorite recipe. It sounds good, it looks good, it smells good, and boy, does it taste good. What's more, it's ready in about 35 minutes, with little effort required—what's better than that? Oh, and did I mention that it's also incredibly cheap? That's right, I've left no excuse not to make this dish—unless of course, you're a vegetarian, in which case I've wasted your time. Moving on...

The inspiration for this dish came from my experience dining at several restaurants in my favorite bearded, bespeckled, plaid wearing borough: Brooklyn. I've long been a fan of the local, sustainable movement sweeping the nation, and no single place on earth does the marriage of high quality, seasonal cuisine in a casual environment like Brooklyn does. While I may complain about the very long commute there from the Upper East Side, the trip back home always includes a happily full stomach and satisfied grin (two things rarely found in my neighborhood, to say the least). While each restaurant there has its own interpretation of roasted beet salad or butternut squash bisque, one thing can be counted on: the brick chicken will be the same everywhere. From south Williamsburg to Vinegar Hill, Bushwick to Park Slope, every menu I saw had this simple dish, and there was at least one on every table, if not two. It always appeared juicy, with a crispy skin and flavorful jus, reducing tasters to unabashed "yuuummms". Needless to say, I was intrigued, if not a little bit jealous.

I'm rarely the one to order chicken at a table, but after several recommendations from friends at one particular establishment, I bit the bullet. The chicken was just as it seemed—moist and crisp with a salty skin, served over buttery mashed potatoes (always the best accompaniment to any roast chicken, if you ask me). The first bite was followed by my own unabashed "yums" and "you've got to try this!" moments. I immediately set to make this chicken at home, and what do you know, the first time was a charm. I bought a family pack (4 pieces) of chicken legs (thighs with the drumstick attached), the same cut I'd seen at each restaurant. It came out to under 6 bucks (skin-on dark meat is such a steal, it really goes a long way for a big family), and with the addition of a sack of Yukon gold's for the mashed potatoes, I got all of it for under ten dollars.

The only tools necessary for this chicken aren't necessary at all, and are easily substituted. For example, I have nowhere to keep a brick in my apartment, so I used a heavy grill pan to weigh down my chicken and get the skin to crisp. I also cooked it in my cast iron skillet as many of the restaurants had, but you can use any oven-safe pan. The rest is simple. Simply preheat your oven and generously season your chicken with salt and black pepper. Then, heat your oven-safe skillet over high heat with just a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil. Once it's hot, add your chicken to the pan, skin side down and weigh it down with either a brick wrapped in foil, or a heavy, oven safe pan (even a pie plate filled with pie weights or dried beans works here—anything that's oven-safe and heavy will do). Once browned, put the chicken with the weight still on top, in the oven. Cook for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and number of your chicken parts. That's it!

Once my chicken was done I removed it to a plate to rest for a few minutes while I deglazed the pan with a few teaspoons of cider vinegar. Mixed with the natural juices in the pan from the roast chicken this made for a great light sauce/gravy (if you're in a hurry, even just the natural pan juices would do drizzled over both the chicken and mashed potatoes—which are easily made while the chicken is in the oven). And so it is that I'm back to not ordering the chicken off of the menu at restaurants, only this time it's because I make it so often at home, there's no point. With a recipe as easy and affordable as this one, what's the point?

Chicken Under A Brick

2-4 skin-on chicken legs (thighs with drumsticks attached) 
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil (depending on how many legs you're making)

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. 

2. Heat a heavy, oven safe pan over high heat until smoking hot (if you have a cast iron skillet, use it). Meanwhile, season chicken legs generously with salt and pepper and add, skin side down, to the hot pan. Weigh down chicken with a brick wrapped in aluminum foil or with another heavy skillet (oven safe). Cook 2-3 minutes or until skin is browned and crisp.

3. Move the pan (with the weight still on top and the chicken still skin side down) into the oven and roast for 25-35 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through.

4. Remove chicken from the oven and onto a plate to rest. Heat the pan with all its juices on the stove over low heat and carefully add the vinegar, scraping any drippings off the bottom of the pan. Allow a minute to cook together then serve drizzled over chicken. Enjoy!



Kathryn said...

Laura, it's great to see a new post from you; I've missed your blog. I hope things will slow down a bit for you soon. I can't wait to try this recipe.

The Food Hunter said...

I've always wanted to try this...this for sharing

Kathryn said...

We made this last night and it was excellent and will be making regular appearances on our dinner table. Thanks! :-)