A Story of Redemption: Magazine Chicken Done Right

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Roasted Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon and Oregano

Last week I wrote a post about my frustration at having a recipe from Food & Wine look nothing like the picture in the magazine. While I am well-aware of food styling and Photoshop skills, that experience still got under my skin. And here’s why — usually when I cook from a recipe, I am successful! See above: a beautiful chicken dinner crafted last weekend from this recipe in Bon Appetite.

This dish turned out exactly like I expected it to — crispy chicken skin, golden lemons and succulent sauce. It also made me a believer in a new cooking technique that I had been hesitant about trying. Bon Appetite recommends starting the chicken skin down in a room temperature pan which, as a former line cook, goes against everything I’ve ever learned. On the line, the mantra is always “hot pan, hot pan, hot pan.” It gets drilled into you. But this worked like a dream — the skin renders so perfectly that it’s practically paper thin by the time the meat is cooked.

Here’s how things went down.

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Rhizome Roulette: Are sunchokes worth the gamble?

How can something so potentially evil look so innocent?

A couple of weeks ago, I pulled up my sunchoke plant and was greeted with a lovely harvest of the knobby root vegetables. Even though I had been looking forward to that moment all summer, suddenly I felt bewildered. What should I do with them? I haven’t cooked sunchokes in years. So I turned to Google.

Which dropped me down a rabbit hole I had not at all expected — an online journey featuring flatulence and intestinal distress. What I discovered was something I had thankfully been totally unaware of all my sunchoke-eating life. Apparently about 50 percent of people have painful digestive issues fueled by sunchokes — to the point that some of the comments on the recipes I was researching made me cringe. Commenters on some sites cried out that every recipe should come with a written warning that these unassuming tubers could wreck severe havoc on unsuspecting eaters. I was floored.

Some people were so intense that even though I was 99 percent confident in my ability to enjoy sunchokes with no ill effects, I actually became a bit anxious. What if all the times I had eaten them were flukes? What if this time I was part of the wrong half of the population? How would I survive an 8-hour day in a small office with that type of reaction? Finally I set my nerves aside, picked up my knife and got cooking.

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What’s up, chicken butt? (the best roasted chicken recipe ever)

The stuff dreams are made of!

I have a friend named Jenna. She and I share many interests: long aimless walks through Target, good beer, Caribbean cruises and chicken skin. Oh, chicken skin…We love nothing more than sneaking bits of it, peeling it off before the bird is even carved. And it must be crispy — that is an absolute must! — and a wee bit salty.

But even though we love the same thing, we have two very different ways of getting the same result. I have eaten her roasted chicken — rubbed in butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked until it’s golden. And I can say for sure that the skin is succulent and crunchy — just as it should be — and the meat is juicy and delicious.

Yet I take a different approach, one that manages to call for one less ingredient. Here’s how it became my favorite.

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Pork & Pineapple Revisited: Sriracha works its magic

Roasted Pork Butt & Pineapple: Resistance is futile

Roasted Pork Butt & Pineapple: Resistance is futile

So after my fabulous pork chop and fried rice extravaganza a few weeks ago, I have been daydreaming about the sweet and slightly spicy flavor combination of pork and pineapple. There was a voice in the back of my head, compelling me to go to the store and buy another pineapple. Which I did the following week — I have no willpower. Then the following day at work, as if she had been reading my mind, a coworker presented me with a perfectly adorable little pork butt.

That’s actually not as strange as it may seem, considering I work as a meat distributor. But it was a little unusual because the pork butts are supposed to come two pieces to a pack, with the pack weighing about 12-17 pounds. Yet somehow this singly packed pork butt managed to find its way to our warehouse. It weighed almost six pounds, which was just the right size for me to take home. Clearly it was a sign.

I braised half of it in a curry, with plenty of vegetables and some farro thrown in for good measure. But I kept looking longingly at the pineapple in my fridge and suddenly I remembered I had the perfect recipe to try out. I dug through my binder and came up with this gem: Slow-Cooked Sweet-and-Sour Pork Shoulder with Pineapple.

I will tell you a little secret. I haven’t done much low-heat dry roasting before. Give me a pork butt or a beef chuck and I immediately think of braising. I know barbecue restaurants often season bone-in pork butts with a dry rub and then cook them at a low temperature until the meat just falls off the bone. But while I’ve cooked that way with ribs before, it’s never been a technique I’ve used on this particular cut of meat — and besides my butt was boneless, giving it a higher chance of drying out. So I was a little apprehensive — I didn’t want tough pork, but I knew that I had to make that recipe.

I waited a day before biting the bullet…then I got to work.

First I cut the pork butt in a spiral, so it would lay flat. Then I got together all of my ingredients for the dry rub — Sriracha, hot smoked paprika, and garlic and onion powder. And salt and pepper, of course.

After you get the pork seasoned with the dry rub, slather the whole thing with Sriracha. It will be messy, I’m not going to lie. Then roll it back up into a log and tie it with butcher’s twine. Let it marinate at room temperature.

Once two hours have passed, it’s time to get started on the pineapple. Basically cut a ripe pineapple into one inch chunks. Put them in a roasting pan or large skillet and mix in equal parts apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Place the pork butt on top of that and stick the whole thing in your preheated oven.

This is about the time you will start to have regrets — because it already looks amazing but it won’t be ready to eat for another three or four hours.

The good news is this gives you plenty of time to drink a beer and mainline some Gossip Girl. That show is my latest obsession. I am currently in the midst of a pretty serious infatuation with Blair and Chuck.

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