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Kathryn - Chicken and Potatoes
November 16th, 2011
10:48 am

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Chicken and Potatoes
This is a solid dinner for a cold night. It's not the healthiest thing I've ever cooked, but when you actually break it down, it's not as bad as you might think. This also has the distinction of being 1) something my entire family, children included, will tuck into with gusto and 2) under ten dollars for the whole meal, almost certainly. Depending on the size of your chicken and your appetites, you can make it serve either four or eight -- in my family, it serves all four of us for dinner, plus lunch for me and Erik the next day. It does take about an hour and a half from the time you take the chicken out of the fridge, but it's so good, and it's not solid cooking -- you can chase children and drink a glass of wine and have a conversation while you do it.

Tools:
  • A big cast iron skillet or braiser pan, or other stove-to-oven pan. I have one from Lodge that I like very much that was 1/4th the price of the Le Creuset equivalent. Of course, the enamel's chipping like crazy -- you get what you pay for -- but it's definitely worth the $60.
  • A broiler pan, one of those two-piece jobbies that gives the drippings a place to drip

Ingredients:
  • One whole roasting chicken cut into parts -- either split breast + leg quarters or quartered breast, drumstick and thigh separated, plus wings with tips removed. Save the back, giblets, and wing tips for stock.
  • about 2-3 pounds of russet potatoes, depending on how much you like potatoes. The potatoes are super good, so you might use even more.
  • 1 Tbsp. salt, or less to taste
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh herb of your choosing, or 1-2 Tbsp. dry. I like rosemary, but tarragon or basil or thyme or sage would be delicious. I've also done this with Penzey's Mural of Flavor blend and it was stupendous. Or you could use a southwest-type spice blend for a totally different but still nomtastic dish.
  • One entire stick of butter

Get the chicken out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken parts with about 1/3 the salt, about half the pepper, and most of if not all of the herbs. Use a LOT of herbs, more than is really necessary. The reasons why will become apparent in a moment.

Melt the butter in the skillet or what have you, over medium-low to medium heat. It is very important not to ever let the heat get too high in the pan! Once the butter is all melted and starting to foam or bubble a little bit, put the chicken breasts in the pan, skin side down. Cook for about a minute, then add the legs, also skin side down. Again, don't raise the heat too high! Just let the chicken parts hang out there in the butter, bubbling away gently, for about ten minutes -- check it after five to make sure that it's not sticking and that the skin is browning up. If the skin isn't browning up, you can try turning the heat up a VERY TINY BIT, but be careful not to let the butter burn. Lots of your herby bits will be falling off into the butter -- this is expected behavior.

After about ten minutes, or whenever the skin on the breasts is starting to get some good color, add the wings and turn the breasts over. After about five more minutes, or whenever the skin on the legs is nice and crispy, turn the wings and the legs over. After about five MORE minutes, remove the breasts to the broiler pan and get them into the oven, followed by the legs and wings five to ten minutes later.

During all these cooking intervals, peel and chop your potatoes into about 3/4" chunks. Toss with the remaining salt, pepper, and herbs -- don't freak out if there aren't a lot of herbs left, there are lots more in the pan. When the chicken is all out of the skillet, dump the potatoes in and continue to cook at that same low-ish heat, stirring frequently to coat the potatoes in the butter, until they start to soften and get translucent. If they start to break up, stop stirring them quite so much and turn the heat down a little lower. After about fifteen to twenty minutes, put the potatoes in the oven with the chicken.

Cook everything all together in the oven until the chicken reaches about 175-180 in the thickest part of the breast, measured with a meat thermometer. this will probably be after it's been in the oven for about 45 minutes, unless you have a convection oven in which case who knows. At that point, the potatoes will be browning on the top and the bottom and fully cooked through. The wings might be done 10 minutes earlier, and if so you can throw them to the inevitably starving children. Pull everything out of the oven, and serve with whatever vegetable you like -- steamed broccoli, or brussels sprouts, or braised cabbage, or creamed spinach, or whatever.

Because of the initial bubbling in the butter, the fat in the chicken is rendered out so a lot of it ends up in the broiler pan, and the skin is crispy on the legs but the breast isn't dry. The chicken also transfers its flavor (and maillard browning yumminess) to the butter, and hence to the potatoes, making them so delicious I have to forcibly stop myself from eating them after I'm already stuffed. And I don't particularly like potatoes!

It's not haute cuisine, there's nothing fancy or challenging about it, but it's a solid way to feed a crowd. And while the entire! stick! of butter! is a little eye-opening, it's spread over 4-8 servings. If I've done my math right, 1 chicken quarter + 1 cup of potatoes slides in at just about 500 calories, if that's the sort of thing you're tracking. And the leftovers reheat better than you might expect.

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[User Picture]
From:browngirl
Date:November 16th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)

*

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*MAKES A NOTE OF THIS*

... why were my caps on?

Anyway. I think I'd make this with all dark meat, but then I like dark meat.
[User Picture]
From:kathrynt
Date:November 16th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)

Re: *

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I do too. But Erik likes white meat. I get chickens at Costco by the two-pack for a dollar a pound, and I used to make this with all the legs and use the breasts in something else, until I realized that Erik would be a lot happier if I used the whole chicken.

The two most important things are to have the chicken at room temp before you start, and to never let the butter burn. The long fricasee in the butter really makes all the difference.

OH! If you do this with just drumsticks and overseason them, you have a DELICIOUS thing to bring to a picnic.
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From:xpioti
Date:November 16th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)

Re: *

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mmmh. Must wipe up the drool now... :D
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From:ceo
Date:November 16th, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
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The potatoes go in the oven right in the skillet, yes?

I had great success with one of Cook's Illustrated's Technique From Mars™ recipes, where you roast a chicken at something like 500°F in a broiler pan with sliced potatoes in the bottom of the pan. The high heat makes for a crisp skin, the potatoes prevent the drippings from filling your kitchen with smoke due to the high heat and come out ridiculously yummy due to said drippings.
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From:kathrynt
Date:November 16th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
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yep, right in the skillet. I don't have good luck roasting chicken at high heat, it just never seems to come out like I want it. Maybe it's my oven, which objectively sucks.
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From:xpioti
Date:November 16th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
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Mmmm, I must try your recipe. I don't get to prepare whole chicken very often because DH only eats white meat and I get tired of him snarking on my chicken pot pie (served a couple days after, using the dark meat chicken).

My favorite (only) whole-chicken dish, from America's Test Kitchen, sounds kinda similar:

* small whole chicken, 3.5-4 lb (they brined it; we find that too salty) (giblets removed for another recipe), excess fat removed
* russet or Yukon gold potatoes, 2.5 lb, peeled and sliced as for a gratin
* oil (I use canola in a spritzer bottle, they used olive oil)
* salt & pepper to taste
* broiler pan
* aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Butterfly the chicken (cut out the backbone). Lay it insides-down on a board, crush the rib cage. (Snap, crackle, pop!) Tuck the wings. Pat it as dry as possible. Spritz with oil and season. Put the bird on broiler pan rack.

Toss the potatoes with oil (or melted butter) and seasonings (salt & pepper, for me). Line bottom of broiler pan with foil. Shingle potatoes -- the neater you shingle, the more of them will crisp up nicely -- across the bottom.

Roast until spotty brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate pan and roast until the skin is crispy and deep brown, should be 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, about 20-25 minutes.

When removing potatoes from the pan, pat off excess grease with paper towels.

It's stupid-quick enough for me to do while distracted, and I'm nowhere near the cook you are. :) (Translation: I'd love to see your interpretation of the recipe!)
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From:ceo
Date:November 17th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
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That's the one!
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From:colorwhirl
Date:November 17th, 2011 08:39 am (UTC)
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Would the same general theory work for other birds as well?

I'm collecting North American-style poultry recipes for my mother-in-law, and this one sounds good as any. (What do I know about the birds?)
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