You know as well as I that we have had, well...how shall I put it...a sweet and sour history. I admit it, I've called you pale and bland, and looked the other way as you sulked in the freezer for months on end. I've edited you out of recipes, making lentil curry instead of chicken curry, pork kebabs instead of chicken kebabs. But, hey, we've had our good times, right? Remember chicken and dumplings? And that thing we did with the artichokes and sundried tomatoes?
Look, I know I've been distant...I'm just going to come right out and say it: I think we have a trust issue. When guests are coming for dinner, I just feel more comfortable with lamb shanks or beef ribs or even shrimp cakes. It's not that I don't like you...it's not that other people wouldn't be happy to eat you. It's that you can be so volatile, moody, either undercooked or dry, rarely inbetween. And, even then, I never quite know when you'll turn out just...blah.
I want to make things work, I really do. I know you'll never make me break the bank, you're versatile, you're popular... I've never denied you those things. Last night, though, I saw how you could be so much more. I've never quite seen you like that...so dark and juicy and...complex. There was an earthy depth about you...something about those root vegetables, I guess. But then, there was this bright tang, too. The cinnamon gave you an exotic air, while the parsley and cilantro made you seem so fresh. Chicken, I think I had a revelation. I've been too focused on your mediocre parts. I mean this in the best way, but your breasts just aren't anything to get too worked up over. But your thighs...your thighs have never disappointed me, and I'm sorry that I haven't given them their due. I knew that they were dependable, good in a comforting sort of way; but last night, it was like I was experiencing them for the first time...unusual, sassy, provocative...worthy of being showed off.
Sweet and Sour Chicken with Carrots
adapted from Gourmet, April 2005. Serves 4.
4 large chicken thighs with skin and bone
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/4 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 pound carrots cut on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, paprika, cinnamon, and pepper and rub all over both sides of chicken thighs.
2. Heat olive oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Brown chicken, turning over once, about 10 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate.
3. Discard all but 3 tablespoons fat from skillet, then add onion and carrots. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes. If spices on bottom of skillet start to burn, add a bit of the lemon juice and scrape up brown bits. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
4. Return chicken skin side up to skillet and nestle pieces among vegetables. Stir together water, lemon juice, and honey until well blended, and then add to the skillet. Cover skillet, reduce to medium-low heat, and cook until carrots are tender and sauce is thickened, 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped herbs right before serving.
Thursday, November 09, 2006