“May you live in interesting times,” is a Chinese curse, but for years I never understood why interesting would be a bad thing. Now I fully understand why it’s a curse, because we are truly living in interesting times.
But the one thing I can do for my family– and yes, everyone is now under one roof given that universities have sent students home– is cook good food. And that’s exactly why I intend to do for the forseeable future. It’s the one thing I know I can do well and one of the few things I can control at the moment. I will cook up a storm and enjoy every moment of it.
Much like Kirstin’s Double Lemon Chicken, this recipe has a very Diana Henry feel about it. Not only because it features chicken– one of her favourite ingredients– but also because it’s very much a “Bang it in the oven and reap the benefits” recipe. I made it on a Friday night after I had met friends for a medicinal gin and tonic (this, obviously, was pre-optional-lockdown) and I wasn’t much in the mood for cooking something complicated. We had all the ingredients to hand, it took no time to prepare and it was delicious. Win/Win/Win.
One small thing: When I said we had all the ingredients to hand, we didn’t actually. I thought we had Cavolo Nero when I first started cooking, but when I checked the vegetable drawer half-way through and clocked its absence, I quickly sought an available substitute. We had bok choy, which is not really like cavolo nero, but it worked anyway. Needs must when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic and all that.
Stay healthy, friends!
For those of you not paying attention in the back, last Tuesday was Pancake Day here in the U.K. I know this post is about chicken, but please be patient. For months, my husband Tim has been saying that he really wanted some fried chicken with waffles. He insisted that it was an American delicacy and we really needed to honour our American roots by having some chicken and waffles. We’ve lived in the U.K. for 21 years now, so maybe my American food recollections are getting a bit fuzzy, but I maintained that chicken and waffles was not an American thing, as far as I was concerned.
Pancake Day 2020 rolls around. Because we are American (see above), we’ve always celebrated Pancake Day with American pancakes, not the crepes that most people make here. Since pancakes are essentially waffles in another form, I told Tim that I would make his dreams come true by making him pancakes and fried chicken on Pancake Day.
Needless to say, I was still skeptical. However I thought even if I didn’t eat the pancakes and chicken together, they’re both still delicious individually. So I followed this Gordon Ramsay recipe for buffalo chicken. It’s essentially fried chicken tenders with a blue cheese dip. I already knew that fried chicken tenders would be a winner, and they were.
But I’m sure you’re all wondering, how were they with the pancakes? Reader, I am here to tell you it was a taste sensation that was out of this world. This is not mere hyperbole. It was amazing. It was so good, in fact, that I messaged Andrew at university on the family WhatsApp group to tell him what a fantastic Pancake Day meal he had missed. (He sent us a crying face emoji in response.)
Would I make this again? HELL YES. Would I have pancakes (and/or waffles) again? I’m thinking it might be tonight’s dinner.
When I was growing up in suburban New Jersey, I honestly thought that fried chicken was chicken dipped in butter and then coated in broken potato chips. I know. I know. But this was how my mom always made it, and frankly, when your age is in the single digits, you’re just going to believe what people tell you. So when she said it was fried chicken, I took it as gospel.
I got older and wiser, discovered KFC (my mom was not a big fan of fast food, which is why it took me so longer to find out about it) and I learned to appreciate good fried chicken. Yum. But potato chip fried chicken still has a special place in my heart only because I have such fond childhood memories of it.
When I saw this recipe in the cookbook, I was ready to jump back into the warm waters of childhood nostalgia and make it. As it happens, my husband Tim’s mom used to also make potato chip chicken so he was happy to have it too. [Do we need to take a moment to consider the culinary wasteland that was suburban America in the 1970s? Let’s not.]
Was it as good as we remembered? The aphorism, “You never can go home again,” is true. Maybe our memories are faulty, but it just wasn’t as good as we remembered it. Nicholas (15) had no such exposure to potato chip chicken, so while he liked it, he didn’t love it. We all agreed that it wasn’t an improvement on standard breaded chicken using breadcrumbs or panko. We also thought it was a shame to crush an entire bag of potato chips for this purpose when we could just snack on them instead.
If you’d like to try this yourself, click through here to see the recipe on the Thanksgiving & Co. website.
The full title to this should be, “Spatchcocked Chicken with Chilli, Garlic, Parsley and Almond Pangrattato.” In the introduction, Diana Henry admits that there’s nothing more to this than roast chicken with yummy stuff scattered over the top when it’s done roasting.
That’s absolutely true, but it’s also absolutely delicious. And frankly, what’s wrong with a roast chicken with chilli, garlic, parsley and almond pangrattato scattered over the top? Nothing at all.
Also, here’s a top tip from our friendly butcher at Dring’s: while it is relatively easy to spatchcock a chicken yourself, it’s better to get someone else to do it because it might ruin your knives if you do it. Good to know. (Also, I’m pretty lazy and when any task can be done by my butcher– deboning, deskinning, de-anything– I’ll have them do it.)
This one was a winner. We’ve been having an unusually scorching summer in London, so this was also a good one to make in the heat because I could bang the chicken in the oven, and then leave the hot kitchen to go read out back. But this would work any time of year, frankly.
Yum. Yum. Yum.
The rub you make for this chicken has fennel seed, hot paprika, salt, smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic and olive oil. Basically, all good things. Alison says in the introduction that she smears this rub onto other meat too– pork chops, pork shoulders, chicken wings. I can see it working well on all of those things, and may try to do it myself.
The other different approach to this recipe is that you cook the chicken low and slow– a low temperature oven for a long time. This makes the chicken extra-moist and extra-juicy. It’s definitely an excellent way to do it if you’ve got the time.
You’ll see the roasted red peppers above, which I roasted for the last hour alongside the chicken, which I then tossed in the leftover juices and spices in the bottom of the sheet pan. Just like Alison told me to do. It was an excellent recommendation.
If you’re wondering if we enjoyed the chicken, I will answer the question with a fact: there was no chicken leftover. Not one shred. That tells you everything you need to know.
Stress levels were high, due to Andrew’s upcoming A-levels, which all kick off in a few short weeks, so I did the one thing I knew would help: make all of Andrew’s favourite foods.
Thus, we found ourselves on a recent night having fried chicken (yum), cowboy rice (yum), tenderstem broccoli (yum), with all of it finished off with a flourish featuring Ruby Tandoh’s chocolate cake (triple yum).
We didn’t have proper fried chicken in our house growing up on the East Coast of the U.S., though I’m sure that’s down to the fact that we didn’t live in the South (where it’s a mainstay) and/or the fact that my dad is not a huge fan of fried chicken. When we did have it, my mom made it using crushed up potato chips and then baking it in the oven, which is fried chicken of a sort, but not proper fried chicken.
This method is proper fried chicken, where I even got to use my candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of the oil (I’m always happy to dig out one of my gadgets to justify its existence). Samin also advises you to either cut a whole chicken into eight pieces or bone about 12 chicken things. I didn’t get to the butcher in time to do either of those things (though Samin says you should do this yourself), so I looked in vain at the supermarket for boned thighs before concluding that you eat fried chicken on the bone in the U.S. so we’ll do the same thing here.
The recipe also gives you an option to make a spicy oil and brush the chicken with it once it’s fried. The adults at the table did this, and while it was interesting, it didn’t make it demonstrably better– mainly because the fried chicken on its own was out-of-this-world delicious.
We even had some leftover, so I was able to enjoy some cold fried chicken (which is a delicacy in and of itself) the next day for lunch. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Did my stress relief strategy for my teenager work? Did it ever. Do I think I’ll be making a lot more fried chicken (and other foods) between now and the end of June? Indeed yes. But making Andrew’s favourite foods is playing to my strengths, so I’m happy to keep doing it. Whatever works.
Kirstin: Today was a snow day. We don’t have many of them in these parts, so I was particularly pleased to have planned ahead with food so we didn’t have to go out for the whole day. I say that, but Miles was the exception as he had a lovely time frolicking in the snow in our garden while we stayed in and watched The Crown.
I might also have mentioned before how much I like to cook recipes from Bon Appetit between cookbooks. And I have been obsessed with finding The Perfect Roast Chicken Recipe Ever for a while now. Many recipes have tried. Many recipes have failed. But this recipe might actually be The One. It’s not difficult, doesn’t use any mad ingredients and everyone loves the moist chicken at the end. The key to this recipe is planning ahead and taking the chicken out and salting it an hour before you plan to put it in the oven. It makes a huge difference to the moistness of the meat. A perfect end to a perfect wintry Sunday.
Ella: Well this is succulent and juicy!
Kirstin: I have to admit I made this a few weeks ago for just me and Miles.
Miles: I remember it!
Kirstin: And we’re having it with pitta bread. This is such a wonderful summer recipe. My picture does it no justice and that’s because it should be photographed outdoors in evening summer light. Nigella, I apologise profusely. But really the rolling pin to squash the chicken does not work at all. I had to use a mallet in the end.
Ella: I love it.
Kirstin: And I love it too. I haven’t done one of Nigella’s recipes where you stick everything into a freezer bag for a while for no good reason. Genius recipe. Also, I’ve just seen Call Me By Your Name, so the word succulent is taking on a whole different meaning because peaches.
Ella: I’m not sure I want to know.
Kirstin: It’s ok. There’s no way I can describe it to you. That said, I have loved this trilogy of films by Luca Guadagnino and in particular the way food is featured.
Kirstin: This doesn’t sound like much. You know, another traybake, another chicken recipe. But it is so much more than that. The potatoes and chicken are tossed and coated with an aromatic concoction of delicious spices before being roasted for an hour; it’s deceptively simple and yet everything about this recipe is perfect. Plus it worked. First time. Which is always a bonus. Miles told me that he loved my cooking as I put this on the table, so I’m going to thank Nigella for making one boy (and his mother) very happy. It tasted wonderful and will definitely, definitely, definitely be made again. Lots, I hope!
Also can I just say how I feel bad that Nigella’s books always come out in the autumn and I always end up taking pictures of her recipes in the dark. Because they deserve so much more. I’m going to have to make one of her cakes and take pictures of it in the daytime. I love a challenge!
I’ve got to say, this recipe reminds of the Jamie Oliver of old, back when he offered up delicious food, simply prepared.
To be brutally honest, it’s not as if he’s reinveted the wheel with this recipe, though. It’s just a classic traybake. But traybakes (also beloved by Nigella) are classic for a reason: delicious, easy and easy to change based on what ingredients you have to hand. I’ve definitely made variations of this many times before now.
In this particular recipe, it’s just chicken with garlic, rosemary and lemon: a classic combination that I’ve used, easily, a million times before. But that doesn’t make it less successful. If it’s worked before, it’ll work again. If people like it, who cares if it’s not terribly original?
However, I have to tell him that I completely ignored Jamie’s instruction to put the chicken on the oven rack just above the tray that has the potatoes in it. It seems as though Jamie has forgotten what it’s like to clean an oven rack with chicken fat all over it. (Spoiler alert: it’s a pain to get clean.) I know why he did it. He wanted the fat and juicy goodness from the chicken to drip onto the potatoes below. I get that, I just didn’t want to clean that. What I did instead was I got a baking wire rack that fit over the potato tray, put the chicken on the wire rack, and then put all of that in the oven. Cleaning a baking wire rack is about 1,000 times easier than cleaning an entire oven tray.
Finally, to give credit where credit is due, I picked up a top tip from Jamie in the car crashes that were “30-Minute Meals” and “15-Minute Meals”: using my food processor to slice up the potatoes. To be honest, I don’t think I ever used my food processor for slicing before those two books and now I use my food processor slicer all the time. (It’s also handy for when I’m making apple pie.)
Will we make this again? Obviously. A chicken tray bake was beloved by this family before and will be beloved in the future.