Winging It! Citrus Chicken
I’m too lazy to take down a cookbook, don’t judge me.
It’s been a little over a year since I started writing and testing recipes for Family Table, and since then, not much has changed. I keep looking expectantly at waiters in restaurants, as if they’ll recognize my name purely by the way my face looks and rush over a couple of dishes in order to get my expert opinion on them. (It hasn’t happened yet.) The one thing people have asked me, and yes, by people I mean my mother, is how do you create a new recipe? And my answer is always the same. Wing it! Truly, the hard part of recipe writing is not figuring out flavors that go nicely together, it’s remembering to write it all down.
The first thing I do is take a look at my pantry and fridge, and see if there’s anything that catches my eye. Then I close the fridge and open it back up to see if the content have transformed themselves into fully cooked healthy delicious dinner that even my toddlers will eat. Nope. Then, extremely unglamorously, I check out what in my produce bin is going bad. I haven’t figured out the magic formula for buying exactly enough veg to suit my family’s needs yet, so there’s usually a container of arugula or a box of mushrooms that won’t be edible in a few more days, and that’s going on the menu! After that, I basically just cook to suit my mood, and hope for the best. I haven’t gotten anyone sick yet, and that’s a track record I’m proud to stand behind.
Citrus and Herb Chicken over Salad
Citrus is one of the few (read, the only) fruits that my 3 year old will eat. The kid has a list of about 5 foods that he allows to pass his lips, and one of those foods is ketchup. So if he asks for 4 clementines in a row, I’m delighted, and I therefore usually have a bunch on my counter. You can use oranges, grapefruit, lemons, or literally any variation thereof for this recipe.
The first thing I do is clean and season my chicken. I like dark cutlets for this, but you can use chicken breast or bone in chicken, skin on or skin off, because you are the boss of your own kitchen. Then, I slice up a couple of clementines into half-moons and clip some fresh herbs from the pot on my windowsill. I’m growing parsley and thyme, so parsley and thyme it is. You can use any fresh herbs that you like, or any dried herbs. Consider that dried herbs are very strong, so start slow. If you are extra organized and prep your dinner early, first, I aspire to be you. Second, chuck all this stuff into a ziplock and let it marinate for a few hours with a squeeze of juice from whatever fruit you used.
Next: turn your oven on to 375 and consider cooking utensils. I love cooking basically everything in my cast iron, since you get a super crust and it can go right into the oven to finish. Ask your LOR about pre-seasoned pans, I burned the seasoning off mine in a self cleaning oven when I purchased it, and re seasoned it with vegetable oil. You can use any skillet you want, just make sure it is large enough to cook your chicken without crowding. Then you want to heat the pan so it’s nice and hot, and get some oil in there. Pam, olive oil, canola, avocado oil, it literally does not matter. Now the majority of the action will happen in the next ten minutes, so put your phone down. Lay your chicken in the pan and don’t move them. Fit the citrus slices around the chicken and sprinkle with your herbs. Keep the flame on medium, and let it cook until the chicken is browned, about 10 minutes. Then flip the chicken and pop it into the oven. Here’s where you need to pay attention. For chicken breast, you need to finish it in the oven for only a few minutes, or even skip the oven part all together and just do another 10 minutes on the stove. For dark cutlets or chicken on the bone, you should cook until juices run clear, which could be anywhere from 15-20 minutes for cutlets to an hour or more for bone-in chicken. Meanwhile, toss together a salad with some nice leafy greens, whatever vegetables you have on hand (for me, that’s red onion, avocado and leftover roasted sweet potato from last night) and a vinaigrette made with juice from the very same fruit you used on the chicken, olive oil, salt and pepper. Then plate it up like you’re the next big thing in instablogging. If you are uncomfortable determining on your own when your proteins are done, buy a thermometer! They are a chef’s best friend, and yes, you are a chef. You just cooked dinner without a recipe!