Soon after the last turkey sandwich was enjoyed last month, the preparations for the Christmas holiday began. There were cookies to be baked, tamales to be wrapped, and food gifts to be delivered.
It is the same thing every year. One holiday leads to another and just before the next wave of festivities show up at my doorstep, it hits me: the invisible energy buster grabs me by surprise. Somehow (and try as I must, I cannot imagine why...), I always find myself gasping for air and reaching for the vitamin B.
You've been there. Heck, you are probably there right now. So my friends, since desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures, I offer you lazy food. Yes. L-A-Z-Y food that requires no energy to assemble but produces rich and uplifting flavors to give us a boost.
The following recipe tastes as if I spent hours in the kitchen slaving away, when it really only requires a couple of minutes to assemble. My oven does all the work for me. I put a few ingredients together in a pot and then relinquish it to the powers of slow and long cooking. My faithful oven (the quiet sous chef that resides in my kitchen) never fails me. And this little recipe won't fail you.
This chicken dish allows me to forget dinner for a couple of hours and frees me to complete other tasks (sitting down and relaxing, writing those last-minute Christmas cards, or decorating the house) in total calmness. Halfway through cooking, right around the time when the house begins to smell divine with the aromas of chiles and citrus, I will usually set a few baking potatoes around the pot and close the oven door again.
By the time dinner comes around, I set the pot directly in the middle of the table (sorry, Mom but believe me, I'm desperately exhausted and my pot is so pretty), and let everyone help themselves. The chicken is so tender that it falls apart from the bone and melts in the mouth.
This is not an elegant meal. It simply is. There is no pretense for elegance in a dish that delivers homey, cozy and totally comforting flavors. Just what I want on days when I'm feeling too tired for words. But it allows me to deliver succulent and simple food to my hungry family without breaking the bank (or having to open the wallet for a tip).
To enjoy the scrumptious and abundant juices that are released within the cooking vessel, I serve this chicken in deep bowls. I offer spoons, instead of knives and I allow myself the luxury of sopping up the brothy liquid with crusty bread. The baked potatoes need no further embelishment, as the are broken into the broth; their flesh absorbs the goodness and I am able to abandon myself to the pleasure of comfort.
Given that on any given day you will find lettuce living in my refrigerator, I will round up the meal with a simply dressed salad. At most, I will sprinkle seasonal pomegranate seeds and shelled pistachios, if they happen to be handy. And that, my friends, is it. No fuss, no muss, no energy lost. Just pure goodness!
On nights like this one, we eat in silence; grateful to be gathered around the family table, we let the simplicity of good, simple food feed our tired minds.
Best of all, cleanup is easy to do: Just on lonely pot. Period. Perfect.
Happy Holidays, one and all. May 2010 bring you stress-free meals and many gatherings around good, simple food.
Lazy Day Chicken
One (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon honey
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced thinly
4 green onions, sliced thinly on a bias
2 serrano chiles, sliced thinly (remove seeds and devein for less heat)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken inside a large Dutch oven (or oven-safe pot with an 0ven-safe lid). In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon juice and honey; stir in the lemon zest, onion, bell pepper, green onions, serranos, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Pour it over the chicken. Cover the pot and place it in the hot oven. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature will measure 180 degrees F) and juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven; let the chicken rest, covered for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 servings.
Copyright © Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2009; All Rights Reserved.