Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Welcome Home Chicken


In case you missed it, I moved.

I hate moving.  I’ve done it so many times that you think I’d be used to it by now, but the week before every move still finds me up all night, crippled by thoughts of worst-case scenarios.  What if my movers don’t show up?  What if the keys to my new apartment don’t work?  What if I can’t figure out how to drive the U-Haul?  I get tension headaches.  My entire body becomes stiff with dread.

But happily, my movers arrived right on time, the keys worked, and I successfully piloted the truck through some of the worst traffic I’ve ever seen (did you know that the entire city of Boston moves on September 1st?).  In fact, everything went as smoothly as I had never imagined.

And now my life looks like this:





It’s hard to say which is worse, packing or unpacking.  Packing, you realize how much useless crap you’ve accumulated; unpacking, you realize how much useful stuff you’ve either lost or misplaced.  Either way your hands get ragged and covered in newspaper ink.  Either way, you’ll probably suffer through a week or so without internet.

Which is how, stumbling out of a [wifi-equipped] café several nights ago, I realized that I hadn’t really eaten a proper, home-cooked meal in a long time.  I suddenly hungered for one, desperately, down to the bones.  And I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

every good dish starts with garlic and onion.

 I made a variation of this dish several weeks ago.  It was the first week of our annual family vacation to the Outer Banks.  We always drive -- a venerable feat in and of itself -- but this trip was made extra special by the fact that our van's A/C went on the fritz a few days before we left.  Although I'm usually the designated meal planner, all of my mental energy was spent thinking how best to maximize ventilation to the back seat.  Having thus dropped the ball, we simply picked up a family pack of chicken breasts and 5 lbs of ground beef—a package so grotesquely large that my brother Sam promptly deemed it the “meat pillow”—and hoped for the best.

(I still shudder at the the thought of that much ground beef.)

I don’t have much experience with improvisational cooking, but that night I produced one of the most delicious dinners I’ve ever made.  (Never mind the fact that I found myself in front of a hot stove not three hours after a 14-hour car ride in what was essentially an encapsulated rainforest.)  Not knowing where things would go, I started with a base of garlic and onion.  I added the chicken and opened a bottle of white wine to take the edge off.  The wine inspired me, and I added a good splash to the pan.  Cooking with wine is très French, I thought to myself proudly.  And then it came to me – thyme!  It’s the quintessential French herb.  I rifled through the cabinets and pulled out a bottle of dried thyme, triumphant.  It wasn’t long before my travel-weary family started to take notice.  There's something about the scent of these ingredients simmering together that whets the appetite.  Around the dinner table, we ate heartily and spoke little – the happy silence that comes from a good meal at the end of a long day.

This moving business -- not unlike a family road trip -- is one of the most exhausting things you can do.  Last week I relied far too heavily on my parents' goodwill and crashed in various friends’ apartments, availing myself of their patience, generosity, and couches while I gathered my belongings and bit my nails in preparation and fear of the blessed day.  To everyone who helped me, thank you, thank you, thank you.  I hope that one day, when I acquire a table and chairs, you will all come over and let me make you dinner.



Welcome Home Chicken

ed. note: the beauty of improvisational cooking is that you’re not using a recipe; you’re free to use as much or as little ingredient as you wish.  This recipe doesn’t give exact amounts or cooking times.  If it makes you nervous, I suggest a glass of wine.

Ingredients:
1 package bone-in chicken thighs, between 2-2.5 lbs (or about 1.25 lbs boneless skinless breasts)
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Dried thyme -- a couple teaspoons?
S+P
1 bottle light to medium bodied white wine, for cooking and drinking.  Extra points if it’s French.

Heat [new] stove to medium-high.  Add oil.  Add onion and garlic.



Turn heat down to medium.  Cook until onions are soft and translucent.  Add chicken to pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Pour about ¼ cup of wine over chicken.

the wine lived up to its name

Cook chicken 10-15 minutes, then flip.  Add more wine and seasoning as needed.  Cook another 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Serve with steamed rice and sautéed spinach, and be sure to scoop up some of the pan juices.



Eat wherever you can find space among the boxes.

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