March 22, 2011
Roasted split chicken breast with vegetables

I made Mark Bittman’s roasted chicken recipe, which I believe is his swan song as the minimalist chef. It seems that the many fundamental flaws of our food system eventually overwhelmed him, and so he has just recently transitioned from celebrity chef to health & sustainability activist, giving talks and writing columns about health and sustainability and food distribution. As a side-note, Alton Brown is doing the same thing but much less gracefully, as all of a sudden Good Eats went from being a very upbeat show, self-described as a combination of Mr. Wizard and Monty Python, to a weekly political tract where Alton Brown scolds viewers for failing to eat healthily and shop conscientiously. Honestly, you can’t role-play as a nomadic Scots clansmen, then turn around and endorse sustainable tuna farming—it’s confusing and it just doesn’t work.

This is essentially a combination braise-roast of chicken, over a bed of vegetables that are cooked in chicken stock. There are a lot of little steps involved, but the overall method is fairly straight-forward.

Split chicken breast is chicken breast with bone & skin attached, as well as the adjacent portion of rib cage & rib meat. They often go on sale: these were 99¢/lb at the supermarket. Here I am using two of them.

You can see the rib portion on the right. The ribs have a low meat-to-bone ratio, so they are better to use for stock. Cut them off using kitchen shears or, as I did since I don’t have any shears, sawing through bone with a great big knife like a mad-man.

Place the ribs into a saucepan along with some onion, carrot, and any other bones you have kicking around in your freezer, and cover with 3-4 cups of water, to make a stock.

Bring that to a boil, then cover and set on a gentle simmer for at least an hour.

After at least an hour, begin cooking some rice, then heat the oven to 400º F. Place a dutch oven over medium heat. Take a couple tablespoons of oil, butter, or leftover chicken fat & glaze (shown below), heat it in the pot, and season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

Set the breasts in the grease, skin-side down, and brown them for 5-10 minutes, then brown them on their other sides.

Meanwhile chop up 2-3 pounds of vegetables (some good things to use here are carrots, onions, leeks, squash, celery, mushrooms, and peppers) and puncture a Serrano pepper several times with a fork. I was going to use garlic too, but it was proving to be a big pain in the ass, the oven had already reached 400, and anyway I have plenty of Lawry’s Garlic Salt. Once your vegetables are assembled, remove the chicken.

Add the vegetables now to the pan. Season generously with Lawry’s Garlic Salt, black pepper, dried red pepper flakes, and whatever spices/herbs you prefer. Sautee for 5-10 minutes.

Use a strainer or colander to strain the stock, and pour that over the vegetables.

Place the breasts on top of the vegetables. You want them to be about half-submerged.

Stick the whole thing into the oven for 30 minutes.

And good god this comes out absolutely delicious. I’d recommend taking the breasts off, letting them cool a few minutes, then cutting them approximately in half, providing you with four servings total. Serve the chicken with rice, and ladle the vegetable soup/stew into bowls. The broth is admittedly quite fatty, so if you are diet-conscious, then scoop out the vegetables and have the broth sparingly or not-at-all.