Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lenten Dilemma, Pt. 2 (Pan Roasted Chicken)

Day Two on the Lenten wine abstinence plan, and a partial bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge has made its presence known.

There's no way it'll be drinkable after the 38 remaining days of Lent.  Too bad, because it's the good stuff, not that roll-the-dice stuff I sometimes buy from the half-price, markdown cart at the grocery store, with the questionable labels and even more questionable taste.  Yes.  I get it.  Lent is all about temptation -- resisting it, that is -- but come on!  Am I really supposed to dump it down the drain?

What to do, what to do?  Well today, when life gives you wine, you make pan roasted chicken.  At least I do.

I love a good roast chicken.  Although a simple dish, it can be hard to get right and easy to mess up.  (Fabio, of Top Chef fame, won a cooking challenge by preparing the perfect roast chicken, which the judges declared five-star-restaurant-worthy.  Sadly, he was eliminated the next week.  I'm still grieving.)

Dried-out white meat is a culinary sin, and the only thing to be done with limp, colorless skin is feed it to the cat.  If he hasn't had anything else to eat for a few days, he may deign to nibble at it.

Usually, I roast a whole chicken on the grill, with fresh herbs and lemon slices stuffed under the skin, and a can of beer stuffed in, ahem, its cavity.  Not only is the resulting chicken tasty and moist, but clean-up is minimal.  Cooking outdoors means the mess stays outdoors.

Last month, though, I found this recipe in Food and Wine.  I modified it slightly, but it's still yummy -- simple, with big flavors.  Well worth the time spent cleaning up the pan.  And the perfect way to finish off that bottle of sauvignon blanc.

Pan Roasted Chicken with Pancetta & Olives

1 chicken, cut into pieces, breasts cut in halves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)
fresh ground pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
5-7 (depending on size) garlic cloves, peeled
4 oz. pancetta, diced fine
1/2 cup (depending on what's left in the bottle) dry white wine
12 oil-cured or Kalamata olives, pitted

Preheat oven to 450.  Toss chicken with oil, herbs and salt and pepper.  Arrange, skin side up, in one layer in a 17 x 11 pan.  Scatter garlic and pancetta on top, and roast until chicken begins to brown -- about 20 minutes.  Drizzle wine over chicken and scatter olives on top, and roast until chicken is done and skin is golden brown -- 20-25 more minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes and serve with noodles and drippings.
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