Cooking For Others: Cast Iron Chicken, From Stomach to Heart
EVENT: Pre-Vacation Vacation
VENUE: Phoebe’s Parents’ Barn, Katonah
PARTY SIZE: 2
TYPE: Romantic Rustic Dinner
MENU: Cast Iron Chicken with Roasted Root Veggies and White Wine Jus; Roasted Cauliflower; Baguette
A few months ago, when Josh and I had barely just declared ourselves bf/gf, I mentioned our romantic meal at Vinegar Hill House in this post about The New Brooklyn Cookbook. Since I had yet to make any further declarations about my feelings, I alluded to the fact that I had fallen in love with (over) the restaurant’s Cast Iron Chicken, though I left it decidedly undecided as to whether or not I really meant the man or the chicken. What I didn’t mention about the romantic date night meal, was that I left it with the worst stomachache of my life.
The next morning, when Cara eagerly asked about the night, it was the stomachache, not the man or the chicken, that became the center of my report. I was perplexed. If I had eaten creamy pasta or an ice cream sundae, there would be no mystery. I am lactose intolerant, though saying so outwardly on the blog is problematic for my deep state of denial, which regularly allows me to eat creamy pasta and ice cream without remembering the consequences. But I am still wary enough that I only let my denial take over when I am home alone and able to clutch my stomach and lie in the fetal position afterwards, not on a romantic date with a new unofficial boyfriend.
When we returned to Josh’s apartment later that night, I did my best to be a trooper. We weren’t yet at the point in our relationship where it was okay to talk about exes, and I thought stomach aches probably also went in that category. So I kept it to myself, acted drowsy from the wine, and pretended to pass out (in the fetal position).
Cara and I tried to troubleshoot where my digestion went awry. There was a tiny bit of ricotta in the parpadelle. Count it. I had filled up on a few slices on bread and butter at the beginning of the meal. Okay. But it wasn’t until we went straight to the source, and opened The New Brooklyn Cookbook, that we found our answer. The chicken recipe specified not two or three tablespoons, but one whole stick of butter.
Months later, I had more or less forgotten about my silent embarrassment that night, but I had not forgotten about the chicken, and I craved it. I decided to open my Brooklyn cookbook again to see if I could get away with adapting the recipe in a way that would bring back the memories of the chicken but not recreate the stomachache that followed.
A few days before we left for our Pacific Northwest adventure, Josh and I took a pre-vacation vacation to my parents’ barn. The impetus was to dig through the trunks and rescue my ski gear from 1997 to take with us to Tahoe. But I was also excited for the opportunity to make the nostalgic meal, and I hoped that it would end in a more romantic way than a face plant on the bed. I didn’t tell Josh about the origin of the chicken but halfway through the meal, he declared that it was the best thing I’ve ever made him. Perhaps it was his subconscious memory of the early stages of our relationship–and because we were far beyond that place, I told him about the inspiration for the meal, and the stomachache that started it all.
To this day, I can’t decide if I have the Cast Iron Chicken to thank for my relationship, or if we managed to persevere despite it. But the memory of that night, of that chicken, and the growing pains that came with, doesn’t cease to put a smile on my face, and give me a feeling of gratitude that can only be matched by Josh’s when he’s actually eating it.
From my kitchen, where my heart is never sabotaged by my stomach, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Cast Iron Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables and White Wine Jus
This recipe was designed to use one pan, and one pan only. You can expedite each leg by using other pots and pans–roast the veggies on a sheet pan at the same time as the chicken, and reduce the chicken stock with the thyme in a small saucepan to concentrate the flavors–and make the dish in under an hour. But don’t discount how wonderful the root veggies will taste when they roast in the chickens juices, and how good you will feel at the end of the meal to only need to wash one pan!
1 tbsp olive oil
1 whole chicken, breast bone removed and halved
2 lbs carrots, parsnips, or potatoes (or a combo), cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place a large 12 to 15-inch cast iron skillet in the oven for 15 minutes.
On a work surface, season the chicken generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Remove the skillet and add the olive oil, turning to coat. Place the chicken in the skillet skin-side down and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate, and tent with foil.
Place the vegetables in the skillet, tossing to coat. Roast the veggies until caramelized and tender, about 30 minutes, redistributing once or twice during the cooking process. Remove to the plate with the chicken. Place the skillet over a medium flame and add the wine, scraping up any brown bits. Reduce for 3 minutes, then add the chicken stock and thyme. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until reduced by half. Whisk in the butter. Add the chicken back to the pan, skin-side up, and arrange the vegetables around it. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes, until the veggies are sizzling and the chicken is heated through. To serve, cut each chicken half into 2 pieces, breast and leg, and serve directly from the pan.