There is a certain splendor in making a one-pan dinner, a beauty hinged on the assumed simplicity, but dependent on the correct ordering of cooking. Like many of the things I cook [and advocate cooking], I am a huge fan of improvisation. Like jazz, there is something innately pleasing from melding a handful of separate ingredients into a cohesive meal that reaches deeper than your taste buds. One that engages your sense of smell with the aroma of onions sweating in butter, your hearing with the crackling sound of chicken fat oozing into a hot pan, the feel of a heated oven that warms the soul from the cool fall breezes, your eyes with the portrait of a chicken thigh dripping with butter and mustard and garlic, resting on a bed of steaming rice, and topped with a handful of garden fresh parsley. Not to mention your taste buds. Like listening to truly exceptional music, all of your senses are on edge, but your feet just glide across the kitchen. If it’s not already evident, cooking can be a very religious experience if you engage these senses, and trust yourself to cook, and to fail. However, this dish is hard to ruin, and easy to alter to your own preferred tastes.
Cast iron offers a few distinct advantages over its aluminum, stainless steel, copper, and non-stick brethren. Primarily, it is hyper durable, can go from stovetop to oven, and can accept high heat without the risk of ruining the pan’s finish. Needless to say, if I was going off to live in a cabin in the woods, a desert island, or a desert, my 10 inch pan would be the one pan I’d take. The only downside is that you need to take care of cast iron by routinely using it, applying oil to it before putting it away, and not using soap to clean it (although this has been contested). However, if you like having nice things in the kitchen, I’d recommend taking care of whatever vessel you cook in by treating it as a family member that continually feeds you nourishing meals. Oh, cast iron can also be heavy. Now to the business of actually getting these ingredients from store to belly…
1 quartered chicken (minus breasts)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Onion (1/2 baseball sized white onion)
Carrots (2-3 medium sized)
Whole Grain Mustard
Rice (Brown, white, red, pink, blue?, use whatever kind of rice you like)
If you are not sure on how to cook rice, I made steamed white rice with a 1 to 1.5 ratio of rice to water, but there are many articles on the rest of the interwebs that can help you cook the perfect pot of rice.
- Heat 2 Tbsp of butter in a pan on medium-high.
- Pat chicken dry, and season with a pinch of kosher (Coarse) salt, and a liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper. After the butter is melted and hot enough to sizzle the skin, add the chicken (skin side down). Turn your oven to 315 degrees F.
- Continue to add butter as necessary to keep the pan from getting too dry, and flip the pieces of chicken when you have gotten a nice brown crisp to the bottom side. Add the sliced onions, and carrots to the pan. Smear a healthy spoonful of mustard onto the browned side of the chicken.
- After the onions have begun to sweat, you should have a noticeable amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Add 5-6 whole cloves of garlic, a couple leaves of sage, and pour a splash of chardonnay in the pan.
- After the liquid has returned to a simmer (which should happen rapidly), transfer the pan to the oven for about 30-40 minutes.
- Check on it in 15 minutes, and add another tbsp. of butter and a splash of wine if you feel the pan needs some more liquid. Use a spoon to splash the buttery broth on top of the chicken, but don’t keep the oven open too long.
- When the chicken is done, the top should be caramelized with a mustard crust, and the meat should be juicy, tender, and fall apart by fork (or spoon).
- Serve on top of a hot bed of rice, pour some of the delicious braising fluid on top of the chicken and rice, and garnish with fresh parsley (or chives).
Serves: 3-5 people
I usually include some of my most recent musical listenings in my posts, and I had a couple tunes in mind, until I attended the unofficial best concert of the fall last night. The Fall Migration Tour by Mother Falcon & Ben Sollee came to Providence last night, and as an avid Ben Sollee listener, I showed up excited for some thoughtful Kentucky folk, and got so much more. Seeing 18 people crammed onto a small stage in a tiny auditorium, all in sync with each other, while improvising, was… Well, it was beautiful, but that doesn’t do it justice. I’ll just attach a couple of clips right here, and let you decide.
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions, or post any comments/improvements you may have.