After the escapades of my first foray into adventurous cooking on my own, I resolved to do better; specifically, I resolved to manage my time so that I wouldn’t be eating dinner at 8 once again. So I kept my time out of the apartment to a minimum and got my chicken into its marinade in the middle of the afternoon, because I was really excited about what I was making on Sunday and I really didn’t want to muck it up. This is a recipe that I had in my head for well over a week, and was one of the main impetuses to go to Despana the day before: it called for a cazuela and I love nothing more than a great excuse to hit up my favorite specialty shop in the city.
In any case, this fixation came about because I happened to pay attention to an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef a few weeks ago. She was making this garlicky chicken over an Israeli couscous concoction and it sounded pretty good to me, especially because it called for several vegetables–thereby making it not nearly as “guilty” an indulgence as, say, aglio e olio.
(I know I keep coming back to that particular pasta dish, but really–it is the easiest dish I know how to make and the temptation to break down and make it in the face of more complicated fare was always present in the back of my mind. I even bought a box of angel hair to keep in the pantry for emergencies.)
Marinating the chicken was easy: the paste came together really quickly and a quick taste before the chicken went into the bowl had me excited to try the final product. The toasted cumin was an unexpected flavor but not an unwelcome one by any means, as it gave the chicken a meatier flavor but didn’t overpower any of the other ingredients.
Really, my main worry centered around my brand-new cazuela. I had soaked it overnight as the staff at Despaña had advised and then let dry completely as it sat by a window, but the one thing that they told me was important was to not put a cold cazuela into a hot oven–but I also read that putting an empty dish into an oven was also not advisable. So what’s a girl to do? I ended up letting it hang out on the stove while I browned the chicken and cooked the vegetables and it warmed up nicely, and by the time I added everything into the vessel it was ready to go into the oven…and it didn’t fall apart.
Nor did it crack apart when I washed it later, so that was a win for me. What I wasn’t as pleased with was the texture of the chicken thighs: I’m pretty sure I overcooked them when I browned them so they were just a little too much on the dry side than I like–but I also didn’t give myself food poisoning so I guess that makes up for it?
Regardless, this is a recipe that I emphatically encourage you to try whether you’re cooking for yourself (with leftovers in mind) or you need something that will satisfy the appetites of a hungry family. If you can, substitute vermouth for the white wine Anne calls for, as it’s a bit more aromatic much more flavorful–plus it keeps for much longer than wine does.
Next up: while elaborate weekend meals are all well and good, the real test of my mettle comes after full workdays and a three-plus-hour round trip commute.