Mar 15, 2010

Damn Good Dinner

Few things inspire me like a person new to the culinary world; it implies both a healthy curiosity and a concern for healthy eating. Anything homemade is always going to beat microwaved Frankenfood. So a recent note from a fellow Twitterati/ journalist felt like a call to inspiration, the way I painter is drawn to canvas or a musician to their instrument. Sharing food ideas and any help is my passion, because I love to cook.

I sent this fellow journalist a response, included a link to my last recipe posted (a hit with busy moms), as well as helpful book suggestions (listed below). I also promised myself I would starting posting recipes more often.

As it happens, I had a very hectic day: two blog posts, several phone calls, emails, a doctor's appointment, and some running around. I wanted something fairly easy and effort-free, if also homey, flavoursome, and healthy. Ergo, meet my Oven-Roasted Herb-Garlic Chicken Breasts.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

You will need:

4 chicken breasts, skin and bone on
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves
1 sprig rosemary
1-2 tsps dried oregano
1/2 lemon
1 tsp sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 425F (use the convection setting if you have it, otherwise set at 450F).

Pour 1 tbsp of the olive oil into a large broad oven dish; you can use a large glass one or a nice square roaster, but keep it shallow, and make sure the breasts fit snugly together.

With clean hands, anoint the fresh chicken breasts with the butter; Nigella Lawson has a wonderful expression (from her basic roast chicken recipe) of spreading the butter around "like a very expensive handcream" -which is apt. Make sure every little bit of the chicken breasts are lubricated. Place in the oven dish, making sure pieces are snug but not busting.

Wash and dry your hands, and then carefully pick the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stalk. Using a very sharp knife, finely chop the needles, and sprinkle them evenly on the tops of the breasts.

Follow this with the oregano (again, use your fingers to sprinkle -much nicer distribution that way). Pour the other tbsp (or so) of olive oil on top.

Take your garlic cloves and peel, then half them. Place the flat part of your knife on top of them, and give a few good pounds, so you're crushing the cut cloves (you may need to do this in stages, doing a few garlic pieces at a time -which is perfectly fine). You'll find nice flat pieces of fragrant crushed garlic to scatter on top of the chicken breasts.

Take the half a lemon, cut it again in half, and slice into very thin pieces; scatter on top of the breasts. Sprinkle the sea salt on top (again, use your fingers) and drape a piece of tin foil on top, then pop the dish into your hot oven.

(You can use this time to throw a salad together, if you wish; a basic cucumber/tomato/mixed greens is good with a light dressing. I also happened to have some roasted potatoes already made, so I popped those into an earthenware dish, gave a glug of oil, a grind of pepper, and threw into the same oven for the chicken's last 10 minutes.)

After 15 minutes, remove the chicken, and take off the foil. Things will be sizzling and fizzling, so mind you don't stand too close or poke your nose in to inhale the fragrant, herb-garlic aroma.

Using a baster or a spoon, spread all those lovely chickeny/buttery/olive oily juices over the breasts a few times, then whack back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so with the foil off.

Poke a breast (pun unintentional) with a sharp knife after the ten minutes is up; the meat should feel solid, and the juices run clear. Take the chicken out (again, mind the sizzle), baste one more time, and whack back in for 5 to 7 minutes.

For a nice burnished top, turn the broiler on medium-high heat and leave the chicken breasts in (without moving the oven rack) for about 3 or 4 minutes after this (keep watch). The lemon slices and crushed garlic might be singed and blackened at their edges; this is perfectly fine.

Remove and... voila. Enjoy. Serve with salad and, if you like, starch of your choice.

Oh, and those book suggestions: I recommend these for both newcomers and seasoned home cooks, for the breadth of their ideas, accomplishment of their respective authors, and overall ease. They are:
To this I would only add one other book: How To Eat, (Random House, 1998) by Nigella Lawson, which provided inspiration for this recipe in the first place.

All of these titles are perffect for the cook who's harried, hurried, and not entirely familiar with the culinary arts. Bon appetit!

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