Crispy Skinned Comfort Chicken

Mostly I cook with one aim – to convince people that I’m magic and/or make them happy. This is down to my fantastic narcissism and a feeling that somehow friendships sealed at the dining table are better and more true.

This is Rocky. Rocky knows how we roll.

This, though, is a different matter entirely. I first made it in a terribly under-equipped kitchen in a salmon pink house in Oxford, and have refined it every time I’ve needed something warm and comforting since. Its little dose of spice combined with the tenderness of the meat and crispiness of the skin contributes to an indispensable dish for those freezing sunny days of spring.

Chicken skin is a rare pleasure – there’s never enough to go round. Its crisp saltiness seems to appease a strong desire in most palates. The mistake most people make, particularly in cooking coq au vin, is to consider chicken akin to fish – all of one piece. The skin will be chewy, fatty and basically kind of gross unless you treat it separately with tenderness and respect.

If you’re lost for something to serve with this, stay simple. Good rice well cooked is perfect, as is some kind of cassoulet akin to the one you’ll find here. This makes enough for four.

Let’s cuddle on the sofa, watch a movie and eat this goddamn bird

Crispy Skinned Comfort Chicken

  • Four chicken legs or eight thighs
  • One clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • Three cloves of garlic, crushed with the back of a knife and peeled
  • One red onion, finely chopped
  • Two red birds eye chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Two sticks of celery, sliced into smiles
  • Two tins chopped tomatoes
  • Tomato puree
  • Half a bottle of cheap red wine
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaf
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

First, preheat the oven to 170º.

Pat the chicken skin dry with kitchen towel. If it’s left moist then you haven’t a chance of coaxing crispiness out of it. Very lightly drizzle the skin with oil before rubbing in salt, pepper and chopped garlic. Heat a little oil in a deep oven-ready pan over a medium heat. As it starts to shimmer, lay the chicken skin side down in the pan, leaving some decent gaps between each piece.

As the skin starts to colour and crisp, add the red onion, celery and chillis. Once the skin is properly crispy, turn the pieces and turn down the heat. You just want a very quiet hiss, not the spitting, cracking beast the pan became before.

After two or three minutes, add the rest of the ingredients, with just a splash each of vinegar and Worcester sauce. It’s imperative that you don’t get any liquid on the skin, so only fill the pan to the skin level of the smallest piece. No point in undoing all your good crispy work.

Put a lid on the pan and put in the oven for 25 minutes, checking every five to make sure it hasn’t dried out. If it is looking dry, add a little more wine. When done, the meat should be soft and fall off the bones and you should have a thick, comforting sauce.

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