Sunday, July 12, 2015

Winner, Winner

There is so much food to talk about- ice cream, more ice cream, Persian rice, a rockin' onion tart, a new grill sitting in my backyard etc. All the food, as they say around here. But first, chicken and the mystery that is Jamie Oliver.

I don't want to like Jamie Oliver as much as I do. As a sometimes grumpy introvert, I should find his relentless cheerfulness and enthusiasm annoying. Plus, he's everywhere. He's always publishing a new cookbook, starring in a new TV show, backing a new initiative, and so and on and so on. Enough. Hallas. And yet, somehow, someway I find his cheerfulness encouraging and enthusiasm genuine. His cookbooks are always good; his tv shows informative, and his initiatives causes that I believe in. I keep on waiting for him to let me down, and he keeps on hitting out of the park (insert parallel British idiom here). How in the ever-loving world does he do it? I mean, where does he find the time and the energy? Obviously he has assistants and staff and sous-chefs and probably a ghost-writer or two, but still. Still. What is this loveable thing we call Jamie Oliver? How?

Which brings me back to chicken. I've made this chicken a few times now and every time it exceeds expectations. Sure, I mean, look- basil and tomatoes and a whole head of garlic are never going to be bad, but there's nothing quite like the transformation they undergo after an hour and a half in the oven nestled between chicken pieces. I don't know how Jamie Oliver knew it, but somehow he did. Somehow he knew how garlic would mellow and sweeten and tomatoes could collapse and infuse; how the great brightness of basil could become a complex back-note, a bass-line, if you will. Maybe Jamie Oliver knows the science of it, but to me it's a little bit magical- and isn't that the point?

Chicken with Tomatoes, Basil and Garlic

Adapted very lightly from

4 chicken legs
4 chicken thighs
a big bunch of basil, roughly chopped
a good amount (about two handfuls) of tomatoes (cherry or grape tomatoes work best)
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves but not peeled
half a red chili, chopped (optional)
olive oil
a bunch of new potatoes, sliced (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Place the chicken in one layer in a pan or oven-friendly pot. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the tomatoes in half (or in quarters if they are very big, and add them to the pot, pushing the under the chicken. Add the basil, garlic, chili and potatoes, if using. Drizzle with a few good glugs of olive oil. Place in the oven, uncovered, and cook for and hour and a half, until the chicken skin is good and crisp and the meat is falling off the bone.

The dish can be served as is, or you can remove the meat from the bones and serve over pasta.