Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where Is My Mind? (Roast Chicken with Tomatoes & Marjoram)

Ever tried to make dinner when you’re…shall we say…not completely there? I mean, who’d be silly enough to work around in the kitchen after that third happy hour martini or after a Lazy Sunday Afternoon with no mind to worry.* Certainly not me, of course. For the sake of argument, though, let’s imagine that we’re faced with this situation. Pop quiz, hotshot…what do you do?

The best way to deal with this little hypothetical would be to have a recipe or three in one’s back pocket that can be thrown together with a minimum of effort and time. Picking up an item or two at the store might be necessary, but I’ll assume your hypothetical shopping was done with a little more foresight than your pre-cooking revelry.

You really can’t go wrong with roasting chicken and tomatoes. It’s practically foolproof. Marjoram has a really fascinating flavor – it’s halfway between cilantro and sage. Besides, if you can still pronounce “marjoram” correctly, you’re probably in good shape to make this. A bottle of Spanish rose makes a great accompaniment.

Disclaimer: If the cook’s mental and physical state is such that a few simple slicing tasks pose a significant risk of permanent disfigurement -- plop down on the couch, put on some Allman Brothers, and call your local pizza place or Chinese delivery. Bodily humors make a poor seasoning for this dish. 

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram (or 3/4-1 tbsp. dried if you must)
  • 5-6 minced garlic cloves
  • 1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges and seeded
  • 1 c. couscous

Preheat oven to 450. Pat chicken dry. Mix all but 1 tbsp of the marjoram (or 1/2 tbsp. if using dried), the garlic, and the red pepper with about 1/4 c. olive oil in a large bowl.

Add the tomatoes and chicken to the mixture and toss. Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray and pour everything in. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer around the chicken. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast for about 30 minutes. Check the pan at this point. The tomatoes should be breaking down and making a sauce and if you cut into the chicken (which should be browning), the juices should run clear. If it needs a little more time, put it back in for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the couscous however you prefer to make couscous. I keep it simple…water, salt, and a little bit of olive oil.

When everything’s done, put down a bed of couscous, top with the chicken, pour the tomatoes and collected juices over everything, and sprinkle the reserved marjoram over the top. What you’ll end up with this is this scrumptious one-plate meal, an easy cleanup, and plenty of time to either crash or recover, depending on your plans. IMG_0749

* Check out “Ogden's Nut Gone Flake” if you’re curious. (h/t to The Wizard of Covington)

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