Sunday, June 2, 2013

pan-roasted chicken with carrots and almonds

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I'm going to be really upfront with you guys-I loathe the preparation of chicken.  I hate everything about it-the slimy texture, the flesh-like hue, the always-slightly-suspicious scent.  I know, of course, that it is one of the healthiest and most affordable sources of protein, with the added benefit of serving as a fine blank palette for a variety of different flavors.  That doesn't do much to assuage my phobia, however, and the fact that chicken blends with almost anything isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for its flavor.  I do cook with chicken on a regular basis, most often rushing through every step, burying any remnants of the packaging under layers of paper towels in the garbage, and scrubbing my hands far longer and more vigorously than necessary after I've finished my preparation.

In the past year or so, I have gotten slightly less squeamish about it, mostly out of the time crunch resulting from having a marginal amount of time to prepare our food.  It is much faster to whip a whole breast out of its package, rub it with a bit of olive oil, and slap it into a pan to roast in one grand move or two, without worrying about my chicken anxiety.  What hasn't changed, however, is the basic truth about my most oft-used form of chicken, the boneless, skinless variety: flavor is almost nonexistent.  Yes, boneless/skinless breasts are certainly lower in fat, but it's next to impossible to keep them from drying up completely, and there is just nothing exciting in their taste.  My SH practically begs me NOT to make chicken, and that has a lot more to do with its inherent blandness than my actual cooking ability, believe it or not.

Enter bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, my new chicken BFFs.  I have eaten many a roasted chicken in my day, and they are a whole different story from boring skinless breasts.  The fact that a chicken "fully dressed" can be made to taste delicious is not brand new information. I've not yet been brave enough to venture down the homemade roasted chicken path myself, but a skin-on, bone-in breast is a good place to start.  I saw this recipe in a recent issue of Bon Appétit and decided it would be my debut.  I vowed to not be afraid of the grotesque bones and yellowish skin, confident that if I trusted my recipe, everything would turn out fine, and even if it didn't, it's JUST chicken.

I am ridiculous to be afraid of a whole chicken, and even more silly to have been worried about a dish with bone-in, skin-on breasts.  They were DELICIOUS.  Warm and homey, the perfect last-roasted-dish-before summer.  My SH didn't say a word, just enjoyed his plate.  I didn't eat the slightly crispy skin, but devoured the rest of the dish, made even more enjoyable with the addition of the roasted almonds and side of lemony yogurt.  Bonus points go to the recipe for being perfectly toddler-friendly too.

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Almonds, courtesy of Bon Appétit, May 2013

1 lb. small carrots (about 12), peeled
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1 tbsp honey
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (3-4 lb. total)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh tarragon (note: I didn't have any tarragon on hand and after a random Googling, decided to throw in a few fennel seeds.  The dish was probably not better or worse because of my substitution)

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Toss carrots, almonds, honey, and 2 tbsp oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.  Roast, tossing occasionally, until carrots are tender, 15-20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Cook chicken, skin side down, until golden brown, 5-8 minutes.  Turn chicken over, transfer skillet to oven, and roast until cooked through, 10-15 minutes longer.
3. While chicken and carrots are roasting, mix yogurt and lemon in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
4. Remove chicken and carrots from oven; transfer chicken to a large plate.  Add carrots, shallot, and tarragon to skillet and toss to coat in pan drippings.  Serve with lemon yogurt.

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