Sunday, August 10, 2008


As promised, here is this week's Learn To Cook recipe. Surprisingly, this is from Gourmet magazine, a publication I wouldn't recommend to beginning cooks, the health-conscious, or the un-wealthy. Gourmet tends to answer such questions as "Why are there no real five-star restaurants in Istanbul?" and where to find the best caviar for under $200/ounce.

So as unlikely a source as it is for an easy, stuff-real-people-eat recipe, it came through. This 2004 recipe is under the heading "Five Ingredients One-Pot Wonder" and has graced our table repeatedly. Enjoy. This recipe halves well to feed two (or one person twice) instead of four.

Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

6 uncooked bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces - turkey bacon is fine
4 large chicken thighs with skin and bone (1 1/2 pounds total - very inexpensive)
2 medium onions, chopped (1 1/2 cups - no big deal if it's a little over or under. If you love onions, add more)
1 (14 to 16-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, including juice. If you can't find stewed tomatoes, just use diced. If you can find Muir Glen's Fire-Roasted canned tomatoes, they're wonderful in this dish and well worth the extra money
2 (15- to 16-ounce) cans small white beans, rinsed and drained. If you love other white beans like Great Northern, go ahead and use them instead.

Put oven rack into middle position of the oven. If there is no middle position, use the upper-middle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook bacon in a heavy ovenproof skillet (cast iron, or something with a metal handle). Cook over moderate heat (#4 on an electric stovetop), stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp - about 8 minutes. If you're using turkey bacon it won't be all that crisp.

Transfer bacon - but not its fat - to a plate or cutting board with folded paper towels on it. Allow the bacon to drain. It's OK to fold some of the towels over and dab the top of the bacon. DO NOT throw away the bacon fat in the skillet.

While bacon is browning, shake some salt and pepper - two or three shakes of each - on the raw chicken. In your still-hot skillet with bacon fat brown the chicken. Turn each thigh after 4 minutes; it will be nicely browned, but not burned, after 4 minutes of medium heat.

Layer more paper towels on another cleanable surface like a plate or cutting board. Using tongs or a fork, move the thighs onto the paper towels to drain.

Pour off most of the fat from the skillet - leave about 3 TBSP, or a shot glass worth - in the skillet. Lower the heat (between #2 and #3 on an electric stovetop).

Cook onions in skillet - if you just washed the onions and they still have water clinging to them dry them off with a paper towel. Otherwise, when cold water hits hot oil it will sputter and spit hot oil, possibly in your direction but definitely somewhere you'll have to clean.

Cook the onions until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir regularly - otherwise the onions with the skillet-bottom real estate will overcook and the raw onions on top will stay raw.

Add the tomatoes and juice to the onions and boil, uncovered, 3 minutes. This lets some of the water cook off and leaves the tasty, more-concentrated juices behind.

Stir in bacon and beans. Heat until you see light steam coming off the skillet and tiny channels of bubbles in the juice - this is called a "simmer."

Nestle the chicken, skin side up, in the dish. Bake, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes.

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