In our team, Bruce is the chef and Mark is the writer. Sure, Mark can cook. But we crank out two and three books a year, not to mention monthly columns and countless articles. There's got to be a division of labor. And so it goes.
But sometimes, Mark gets in the kitchen to make dinner--particularly on the days when Bruce is out teaching knitting.
We've both become partial to this chicken sauté Mark developed a while back. It's got big flavors, best paired with some brown or red rice on the plate. Nothing less than whole grains will work with this feast. Bruce, Monsieur le Chef, has even said it's good enough for company. High praise indeed!
Here it is:
First, gather together the vegetables, fruits, and aromatics in a bowl:
- 6 to 9 medium shallots, peeled and divided into their two lobes
- 1 to 2 jarred roasted red pepper, cut into thin strips (if the ones in your jar are in pieces, use enough to make whole peppers)
- 12 to 15 kumquats, thinly sliced (and seeded as you slice them)
- 10 to 15 pitted, small, green olives
- 8 sage leaves, minced
- 4 to 5 thyme sprigs
- 3 bay leaves
That's a lot of aromatics. But those tart kumquats require a lot of balancing. No use going halfway or they'll overwhelm the other flavors.
Next, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425F (215C). As it comes up to the right temperature, heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 3 to 4 ounces (85 to 115 grams) slab bacon, cut into small cubes. Really let them go over the heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and crunchy. Don't stint. Transfer them to a second bowl.
Now for the chicken. We often use a mixture of breasts and thighs, about three each--always bone-in for the most flavor. The breasts are usually cut in half the short way to make them more manageable.
Place these in the skillet and brown them on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Once again, don't stint. Brown is flavor. Besides, the natural sugars and proteins in the skin need to caramelize so the pieces can be popped off the hot surface. (You'll note that one of the chicken pieces lost its skin. Someone didn't listen to what he knows is best--and tried to turn it too soon, tearing the skin. Ah, well.)
Transfer the browned chicken to the bowl with the bacon. Now you've got to come to a reckoning between your soul and your stomach. You need to get rid of some of the grease in the skillet. We usually leave about 2 tablespoons (30 ml), pouring off the rest. But do as your conscience tells you.
Add all the vegetables, fruit, and aromatics in the bowl to the skillet. Stir them around about 1 minute, until ridiculously fragrant.
Then pour in 1 cup (240 ml) dry white wine or dry vermouth. Raise the heat and bring this to a furious boil, scraping up all the browned stuff in the skillet.
When the wine has reduced to about half its original volume (in about 1 to 2 minutes), return the chicken pieces and bacon to the skillet, as well as any drippings in the bowl. Make sure the meat is in one layer, skin side up, with the bacon tucked between the pieces.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of a thigh without touching bone registers 165F (75C), about 30 minutes. Toss out the bay leaves and thyme sprigs--and the rest is ready to serve. No salt--the olives and bacon add well enough. But scoop up every drop of that aromatic sauce with the chicken. You won't want to miss it!