I consider the kitchen my workspace, and thrive in an organized space with ingredients and equipment I can depend on. Love local and seek out organic, but those options are not always available. I look to the season for meal inspiration choosing what looks the freshest and additive free. Trusty pantry items include extra- virgin olive, sunflower oil, Diamond kosher salt- it’s the one in the big red box, sherry, white wine and apple cider vinegar, Imagine No – Chicken broth, basmati rice, dried beans, grains, Le Puy lentils and tomato paste in a tube. The baskets on my counter hold fresh garlic, onions, Yukon gold potatoes and during the cold weather months sweet potatoes and winter squash. To build flavor I use smoked paprika, cumin, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, ancho chile powder, bay leaves, cardamom, and cayenne. Fresh herbs take a dish to another level – sage, thyme and rosemary add vibrancy and richness to soups, red sauces and braised meals. It’s my grocery store treat while my garden is covered in snow.
Refrigerator favorites include local eggs- yes they really do taste better, olives, Parmigiano- Reggiano, organic citrus—(the peel adds a refreshing zip to soups and stews and to my occasional vermouth cocktail), fennel, ginger root, Swiss chard, kale, carrots (full grown for the sauté pan and dippers for visiting sons).
Now let’s cook!
I love my cast iron pans, they hold heat like nobody’s business and just get better after each use. The following recipe is an all time favorite, it starts on the stove, finishes cooking in the oven and then finds it place on the dinner table. I like to serve it with ciabatta bread and a crisp winter salad of escarole and roasted beets lightly dressed with a squeeze of grapefruit, fruity olive oil and a light pinch of kosher salt. Mangia bene.
4 to 6 bone – in, skin on chicken thighs- NOTE: Amount of pieces depends on size of pan, chicken should fit snuggly, in a single layer. Keep in mind chicken pieces, shrink a bit while cooking.
- kosher salt
- smoked paprika
- freshly ground pepper
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 fennel (also called anise) chop the bulb, saving tops for another use, such as scrambled eggs or simmered in the next batch of tomato sauce
- 1 small bunch Swiss chard, leaves stripped from middle rib, reserve ribs.
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small lemon, (organic preferably) sliced
- handful olives, optional
Heat oven to 375. Line your work area with a large sheet of waxed paper. Wash and pat dry chicken and place on waxed paper. Using kitchen shears, trim and discard excess fat. Season both sides with kosher salt, smoked paprika, cumin and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a cast – iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Drizzle bottom of pan with just enough olive oil to cover, when oil begins to shimmer add chicken pieces skin side down. Cover and cook until golden about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove cover, using tongs turn chicken. Cover and cook other side until nicely browned, another 5 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile separately chop Swiss chard ribs and leaves. Remove cover from skillet. Transfer chicken to a plate. Discard all but enough drippings to coat bottom of pan. Add garlic, onions, fennel, chopped rib greens and bay leaves. Leafy greens go in at the end. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper, cook until vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
This is where I have a couple of sips of beer or wine- your call.
Arrange chicken skin side up on vegetables, adding any accumulated juices from plate. Now this is where you can have fun with flavoring the braising liquid. Add enough broth so liquid just reaches half way up the chicken pieces and pieces rest nicely on the vegetables and liquid. Tuck lemon slices under and around chicken. If you were out of lemon, no worries add a splash or two of sherry or apple cider vinegar to broth. A few olives would be delicious too. Place pan in oven and bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven. So lovely, yes. Taste the broth, if using vinegar and would like more of a vinegar kick add a splash of vinegar. Stir in reserved Swiss chard leaves, the hot broth will soften greens. Return to oven for 5 minutes. Remove and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.