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Recipes for the Perplexed: Deadline Chicken (Nano special)

***Note: this essay and recipe first appeared in the wonderful collection Cooking Up Stories, published by Lucky Bat Books and edited by the delightful Louisa Swann and Dayle Dermatis. If you like writing, cooking, or both, check out the whole collection***

I made a whole chicken yesterday, and the burnt little things are carrots...
I made a whole chicken yesterday, and the burnt little things are carrots…

(In honor of National Novel Writing Month, I offer for your procrastinating pleasure a short meditation on family, eating, and the things that matter…plus a bonus recipe that actually rocks. If you are writing a novel this month, try this recipe. It might save your life!)

In days of yore (like, when I was in my 20s) when any kind of deadline loomed, my food choices quickly devolved to, in order: (1) delivery pizza; (2) hard boiled eggs; (3) chocolate and (4) nothing. Though this sad diet kept me more or less alive when chasing a deadline, the headaches, dizziness, etc did not do much to help me to hit my target.

Then I started having kids (I have three hungry, growing boys now) and the above strategy no longer worked. No matter how heinous the deadline, those little guys had to get something good to eat or a mutiny would soon be on my hands! The pizza worked once or twice, but after that…oh my.

The following recipe emerged in the midst of my desperation. It was 2008, and I had a two-week old baby at home when I got my edits for my first NY published novel.

I had two weeks to edit the whole kahuna. No brain cells, certainly no time to cook a lasagna and throw it in the freezer for just such an emergency. A houseful of hungry guys. AND my husband worked long and hard hours, so he did his best to bring groceries in but wasn’t around to help any more than that.

This chicken dish is amazing. I have made it while bleary-eyed, feverish AND nursing a baby at the same time…and it came out fine. I originally named it Coma Chicken for truly many a time I *was* nearly in a coma when I made this, and it comes out great even if you are barely alive when you cook it.

My dear husband begged me to change the name, because he hated the thought of me being in a coma even as a joke, and it messed with his appetite, which is a real crime considering the tastiness of this dish. So I happily re-named it Deadline Chicken. Now when this dish appears on the table, there’s an added benefit — my little guys know that a deadline is looming once again, and they know to back away slowly once the dishes are done.  What’s not to love!

And now, my friends, I give to you my secret, easy recipe for Deadline Chicken!

Ingredients:

1 three pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 baking sheet

spices:

Kosher salt

Garlic powder

Paprika

Dried rosemary (or fresh thyme if you have some)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (traditional chicken temp is 350 but I like the crispiness when I cook it a little hotter than that)
  2. While oven is firing up, put chicken pieces on the baking/cookie sheet. Do not oil the sheet — you are dry roasting this bird. If the chicken is damp for any reason, pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. Sprinkle spices over the pieces, and use a heavy hand. Simple salt and pepper would be enough, I guess, but I enjoy these four: kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika (for lovely golden color) and dried rosemary.
  4. When oven is at the right temperature, pop the sheet with the chicken into the oven. Middle or lower-middle rack is good. Set your timer for 50 minutes.
  5. When your timer goes off, take out the chicken, put it on a serving plate. That’s it!

Every time I have cooked this dish, the pieces come out crispy and flavorful, with moist, juicy chicken inside.

  1. OPTIONAL: for added nutritional goodness, once you’ve thrown in the chicken, get another baking sheet and cover it with some nice roasting vegetables. Here are some suggestions:

*cauliflower, cut up and sprinkled lightly with sea salt and olive oil

*onions, carrots, and celery, cut up with a little salt. If you dry roast these they get all crunchy and sweet and yummy

*some sweet potatoes, scrubbed and as is

*acorn or butternut squash, cut in half with maybe some oil or butter if you want (I do it plain)

Throw in the vegetables once you’re done cutting them up and let them cook at the same time as the chicken.  When the chicken is done so are the veggies. (The potatoes might take a wee bit more time, so if you have big potatoes throw them in as the oven is warming up.)

And that’s all there is to it. If this dish doesn’t work for you, please write to me and let me know what happened because I am a primitive cook and this recipe has never failed me. Enjoy!

 

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