Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baked Chicken Julia Style

If you're like me, you're about to discover that once you've followed Julia's lead in how to put the most flavor in baked chicken and vegetables, you'll be using the same secret to make every roast, soup, stew, or baked whatever-it-is taste oh, so so good. And yes I'm on a first name basis with her, now that she's gone and can't refute that. After the movie Julie and Julia I was on Amazon buying THE cookbook before the clock struck midnight. The minute it arrived I flipped straight to page #315 and started on the famous Beef Bourguignon, intent on cooking my way through the whole book. Four recipes later I moved on to a completely new and much more interesting project I can't remember at all right now.

So, here we go! Oven to 325. Oil to cover the bottom of a Dutch oven lightly. Heat it up to med-hi and let's start with some chicken breast that is still in possession of its skin and bones - remember, we're going for great flavor here. Dry it well (first secret of getting a crispy brown). Turn it over and up on its edges to get plenty of browning all around.
This will just take 5 minutes or so and while they're cooking you can peel and cut up 2 or 3 big carrots to go in next. Why are my carrots so orangey-gorgeous you're wondering? They're organic and it makes all the difference. There are certain organic products that really are worth the price and one is carrots - sweeter, bigger, more flavorful. Ok, chicken to a plate and in go the carrots. Make sure they're dry! (In case you're one of those people who wash a completely clean peeled vegetable.) Now start on the potatoes - 4 Yukon Golds, peel and cut into sixths or eighths longways.
These are done enough. You want to flip them over and get just a touch of brown here and there and that will do. That's right, we're browning every vegetable that is going into this dish, separately, uncrowded, and unhurried. And that is the Julia secret. It will take no more than  20 minutes or so to do them all and everything else happens inside the oven while you mostly ignore it. If anything starts to stick add a bit more oil.

Look at those beautiful brown potatoes. When they come out of the oven later they will be absolutely creamy inside. If I sound like Giada who describes everything as creamy it's just because that's the truth about these potatoes, but also..creamy... really makes you want a bite right now, doesn't it? Oh, am I on a first name basis with her too? Can't say. She's still among the living. Alright, back to business here - you should be slicing up a huge onion while these potatoes are working.
There's a reason I save the onions for last. They give up a lot of moisture and change the character of that nice little oily film on the bottom of the pan and will help you in scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan that are full of flavor. Stir the onions 2 or 3 times as they brown and when they look like this, browned but not carmelized, add a splash of white wine. Anything good enough to drink. You could also use a little chicken stock or even water, but if you forgo the wine you'll miss the ingredient that unlocks extra flavor in all the other ingredients - something broth and water cannot do. At this point, it's time to cut the heat and settle the chicken in on top of the onions and wedge everything else in around it. Smash a couple of garlic cloves and push them in underneath, too. 

Yes, it's my funny garlic "rock" but you can get a nice smooth stone of your choice and run it through the dishwasher for the same purpose. I don't much like the idea of whacking my hand against the flat blade of a knife as is so popular for garlic attacks these days. Having a rock in the kitchen is much more to my liking.

Here it is, dotted up with some butter, and prodigiously salt-and-peppered. Lay that pepper on; southern cooks know plenty of pepper improves many a dish. And that's it. Into the oven for an hour or so till a knife through the chicken proves it's tender. Baste a few times if you have it in you. Add some herbs like sage or thyme or tarragon if you want, but there is no need. Because each ingredient will be flavorful on its own the salt and pepper will be seasonings enough for a delicious dinner. I had it for breakfast the next morning too. 

2-4 Chicken Breasts, Bone In, Skin on
1 Large Yellow or Sweet Onion
4 Yukon Gold Potatoes
2-4 Large Carrots
2 Garlic Cloves
3-4 TBS butter
Splash White Wine (or Broth)

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