This is a story about closets, and how messy they can get when you spend a year caring for a baby and put things away so haphazardly that one day, they won’t close at all and you beg your in-laws to watch the baby for a few hours so you can
go to a bar get some sleep clean out your closets. Yep, things can get that bad. But if I hadn’t cleaned out this closet, I wouldn’t have snuck off to the bedroom for a while with an old issue of Gourmet I discovered in a totebag, the French Bistro one, and found a chicken recipe I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made yet. That I had to make immediately.
So it’s not just a story about closets, phew. It’s also a story about butchering, and I do mean in the wow-you-really-butchered that sense, in that one of my goals in the kitchen has been to learn how to take apart a whole chicken. There are so many reasons I want to be able to do this: it saves money, it makes us more self-sufficient in the kitchen and it’s easier to buy clean and local chickens, which are mostly sold whole. And it’s efficient: my husband likes white meat, I like dark meat, the Muppet ain’t picky and we all agree that chicken stock made from the backs and etceteras of whole chickens (I keep them in the freezer until I’ve amassed enough for stock) is superior in every way. Look how far that little bird goes! So, with the guidance of another Gourmet production, this video from Ian Knauer (who brought us these, by the way), this was my first effort. Which explains why it looks so butchered. Hey, it only gets better from here, promise.
Mostly, though, this is a story about our new favorite chicken dish. From the day I first made it, we couldn’t wait to eat it again and it’s gone on repeat in our kitchen more times than any other dish I’ve shared with you. With only a handful of ingredients that you probably already have around, it’s so simply and it’s done in under an hour. The sauce is like nothing else; so fierce and bright, I found it so difficult to not pour over the entire plate — full of tiny roasted Yukon gold potatoes and al dente green beans with flaky salt that you can cook at the same time as the chicken — that I stopped fighting it. And since you had to open a bottle of white wine to make the chicken, you get to drink that too and feel like you’re in a bistro in a faraway land, even if you’re stuck at home on a Wednesday night, trying to chew quietly enough that the baby won’t wake up and try to join the party.
One year ago: Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Two years ago: Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake and Chicken Milanese with an Escarole Salad
Three years ago: Leek and Swiss Chard Tart
Four years ago: Paula Wolfert’s Hummus
Roasted Chicken with Dijon Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008
The sauce is on the thin side but can be thickened up by reducing the sauce over high heat for several minutes. This concentrates the flavors as well, and if you haven’t used a low-sodium broth, you might find the results a little salty. Just a word of warning.
3 pounds chicken parts (thighs, drumsticks, and/or breasts), with skin and bones
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup reduced-sodium or sodium-free chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives or the green parts of scallions
Preheat oven to 450°F with a rack in middle. Pat chicken dry and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (if you’ve got a cast iron skillet, it is great here) over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Working in 2 batches, brown chicken, skin side down first and turning once, about 5 minutes per batch. I like to take a lot of care in this step, not moving the chicken until the skin releases itself and has a nice bronze on it, which will provide the best flavor.
Return all chicken, skin side up, to skillet and roast in oven until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter, then add shallots, wine, and broth to pan juices in skillet and boil, scraping up any brown bits, until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream and boil until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. To thicken the sauce further, turn the heat to high and boil it until it reduces to a consistency you prefer.
Strain sauce through a sieve into a bowl, if you’re feeling fancy (I never am, but if you don’t, you might find some chicken bits scraped up from the pan in your sauce. We don’t mind.) Whisk in mustard, chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve chicken with sauce.