Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Saga of a Baked Chicken

It was a Sunday night, a week or so after Thanksgiving, and while I had gone to the grocery store and was well prepared for work-week lunches, I hadn't given much thought to dinners and realized I didn't really have anything on hand. I had plenty of rice, pasta, couscous, and polenta, and even a few vegetables, but I didn't have anything to tie any of those things together. I even had some couscous cooked up, using the leftover red pepper and summer squash I had used for the Rocky Mountain Chili with Anasazi Beans. I cooked it with some of my crock-pot chicken stock and it came out really good, so maybe that's why I decided that a nice baked chicken would be just the thing.

But ever since I have been buying my meat from the Red Apple Market, I cannot bring myself to buy that pasty, pale, antiobiotic-stuffed looking chicken that is stocked at my neighborhood stores. And it's a little bit of a challenge to get to the Apple Market on the way home from work. It involves the bus, and an extra 45 minutes to my commute. But what could I do? I really wanted that chicken. I decided it would be worth it on Monday to make the detour.

But Monday was kind of crazy at work and I ended up staying late and I was just too tired to bother. I ended up eating a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich on toasted bread (don't knock it 'til you've tried it - seriously), and decided to try again on Tuesday.

Which was pretty nasty. It had been really cold and icy over the weekend and on Monday, but on Tuesday it warmed up just enough that the snow turned to sleet, then to icy rain, and then just to cold, miserable rain by the time 5:00 came around. All I wanted to do was go home. But I really wanted chicken and I was not going to be thwarted again. So I took the train to the Van Buren station instead of Roosevelt where I usually catch the red line, and walked up to Dearborn to catch the 36 bus. In the cold. And the rain. And waited for the bus. And waited.

And forgot that when it's rush hour, and raining, everybody - and I mean everybody - rides the bus. So after it came and I got on, we hadn't gone more than two stops before the bus was crowded and overheated and wet and miserable. And traveling about one mile per hour. I would have bailed but there was nowhere I could bail to by then - once you're downtown in Chicago at rush hour there's no quick way out. You just have to go with the flow.

And after an interminably long, miserable ride, we finally came to my stop. I slogged through the rain and went into the store. At least they had my chicken. That would have really sucked. I bought it, along with some green beans that looked pretty fresh, zucchini, and some more yellow squash. I slogged back out of the store to the corner of Fullerton and Clark and waited for the next bus to come by.

Which of course was also crowded, and also miserable. It was after 7:00 by the time I got home, and the last thing I wanted to do was cook a chicken. Maybe I had become feverish in the cold rain, but I was determined to cook that chicken - maybe even a little obsessed. So I pulled out my 9 x 13" casserole, sprayed a little cooking spray in it, trimmed and snapped the green beans, cut the zucchini and squash into large pieces and laid them out in the bottom of the pan. I washed and dried the chicken pieces (thank goodness I had thought to ask them to cut the chicken for me) and laid them out over the vegetables. I seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then crumbled some dried thyme and marjoram and sprinkled that liberally over the chicken pieces. I put it in the oven and waited impatiently while it cooked.

And was well rewarded for the wait. It was worth everything - the crowded bus, the extra 45 minutes getting home, the rain - everything. It was tender and flavorful and absolutely delicious with the couscous.

I haven't really used marjoram that much. I had it on hand for the za'atar. If I had any of that, I would have used it on the chicken, but I was out. It's why I thought of the marjoram, though, and it really made that chicken tasty. This was quick and easy and makes a great dinner when you don't feel like putting in too much effort but want something that tastes like you did.

Next time I make it, though, I will add the vegetables for the last 45 minutes of cooking instead of putting them in at the beginning with the chicken. They came out a little too well done.

Serves 4

1 chicken, quartered
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1-1/2" pieces
3 medium zucchini, cut on a slant at least 3/4" thick
2 medium yellow squash, but on a slant at least 3/4" thick
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1-1/2 tsp thyme
1-1/2 tsp marjoram

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

Grease the bottom of a 9 x 13" baking dish. Wash chicken pieces and pat dry, then lay them in the pan skin side up. Season well with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then crumble the thyme and marjoram over the chicken. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and arrange the green beans, zucchini and yellow squash around the chicken pieces. Cover it back up and put it back in the oven, letting it cook for about 15 minutes more. Remove the foil from the pan and cook for another 30 minutes or so, until the chicken is done.

Serve over rice or couscous.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

debi, maybe you should just go out to eat, on days like this. just a thought. :)

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