Bbeef or white? I sit on the fence and like both equally, albeit in different ways. In a chicken sandwich, with lemon mayonnaise, cheerful watercress and tender peppery basil leaves, I prefer thin slices of the brisket (which I also spread with a fine wave of yuzu kosho). But it’s the brown meat—the thighs, drumsticks, and juicy little oysters tucked into the undercarriage—that I use for pies, sautés, and the endless fried chicken thighs that come out of this kitchen almost weekly.
Sometimes the recipe itself determines the cut that is most suitable. A slow braised stew turns chicken breasts into rags, but reduces even the hardest-processed thigh meat to silk. A smooth sauce made with white wine, cream and tarragon is impossible to beat with the pale flesh of the brisket, especially if left in the hands of a French chef.
When I open the fridge on a Monday night to the glorious sight of some leftover roast chicken on the platter, it’s the drumsticks I turn to, spinning them off the carcass and putting them in a sauce on hand (preferably garlic mayonnaise , but I wouldn’t say no to almost anything).
The leftovers are just as delicious as the rest of the bird, of course, but for this week’s recipes, I’d go for brat with thick thighs and plump breasts from the best-bred bird our budgets will stretch for.
Chicken baked with olives and lemon
The lemons, thinly sliced, become wonderfully soft when the chicken, olives and potatoes cook. You eat them with the skin and all. There is a richness to this recipe, despite the modest ingredient list. Serves 4
chicken breasts 1 kg
olive oil 2 tablespoons
onions 2, large
saffron a pinch (optional)
small potatoes 350 g, small
green olives a large handful
For the paste:
garlic 3 large cloves
smoked paprika ½ teaspoon
ground turmeric 2 teaspoons
cumin seed 1 teaspoon
olive oil 2-3 tablespoons
Make the spice paste first. Peel the garlic and place in a mortar or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and mash into a paste. Stir in the paprika, turmeric and cumin seeds and grind, adding enough olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) to make a loose paste.
Place the chicken breasts in a bowl, add the spice paste and toss. Cover with a plate and let marinate for an hour in a cool place.
Peel and chop the onions. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pan, add the onions and let them soften and color slightly. Remove from pan and set aside. Place the chicken breasts in the pan and brown them lightly on both sides.
Thinly slice the lemon and add to the pan with the saffron and enough stock to get halfway through the chicken pieces. Thinly slice the potatoes and add to the pan, return the onions and cover with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are tender.
Add the olives and check the seasoning. Take the chicken out and keep it warm, then turn up the heat and let the liquid reduce a bit until it’s slightly pliable. I serve this with a knife, fork and spoon.
Chicken with mushrooms, mustard and sour cream
There’s something vaguely Hungarian about this – although I have to admit it’s been a while since I crossed that particular bridge. The paprika, mustard and sour cream give it the feel of a goulash, but it’s far from it, with its extra notes of garam masala and coriander. What you get is a hearty brown meat stew. I use thighs, but you can also use the whole leg if you want. Serves 4
peanut or vegetable oil 2 tablespoons
chicken thighs 850g, on the bone
Red onions 350g
onions 2, average
garlic 3 cloves
mushrooms 225g, small and brown
ground cumin 3 teaspoons
ground coriander 3 teaspoons
garam masala 2 tablespoons
vegetable or chicken stock 500ml
flour 1 full tablespoon
grain mustard 2 teaspoons
Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons
sour cream 150ml
coriander a small hand (optional)
Heat the oil in a heavy, shallow frying pan over medium heat, season the chicken with black pepper and a little salt and brown lightly on both sides. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Meanwhile, peel, halve and slice the onions, both red and white. Peel and cut the garlic into thin slices. With the chicken set aside, add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until soft and honey colored — about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Slice the mushrooms, about the thickness of a pound of mint, then stir them into the onions and cook for 4 or 5 minutes until they start to color slightly. (If the bottom of the pan becomes sticky from the caramelized cooking juice, you’ll be fine.) Add a little more oil if the mixture looks completely dry.
Stir in the cumin, coriander and garam masala, cook for a few more minutes, then add the flour. Cook for a minute or two, then pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Immediately return the chicken to the pan, bring the heat to a boil, season and stir in the mustard, then let stand for about 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a serving platter or shallow bowls and spoon a ribbon of sour cream over it. I like to add a little chopped cilantro at this point – it works perfectly with the spices – but it’s up to you.
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