Thursday, March 31, 2016

Recipe: Italian Chicken Bake

This is a pretty simple dish using everyday ingredients. There are just so many wonderful things going on here. The chicken is tender, juicy and full of flavour, the cheese meltingly gorgeous, and the fresh herbs in the zingy vinaigrette bring the whole dish to life and make it sing. Then you have the potatoes - my children's favourite - which manage to go slightly crunchy on the top while soaking up all the juices and flavours from the bottom of the dish.

Let us rejoice in its simplicity with a massive injection of oomph! If you have a oven proof fry pan, here's an opportunity for it to shine.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2 adults and 2 young children who are all very hungry

500g floury potatoes, unpeeled and cut into quarters
Olive oil for cooking
Salt and pepper
1kg bone-in chicken thighs (preferably skin-on)

Herb vinaigrette
2 tbsps. fresh rosemary leaves
2 tbsps. fresh oregano
3 cloves garlic
1tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

To assemble and serve
1 x 400g can whole tomatoes, halved
1 punnet of ripe cherry tomatoes
Large handful (or more) Kalamata olives
16 balls of bocconcini
Fresh basil leaves to serve

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C, fan forced

2. Prick the potatoes a few times with a fork, place it in a microwave dish for 5 minutes and tip any liquid out. Place a lid over the dish and shake it a few times to rough the potatoes up. Add a splash of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss well.

If you have an overproof frying pan, use it for the next part. If  not, use a standard frying pan and transfer everything to a baking dish later.

3. Heat a little oil in the frying pan over high heat. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, brush with oil and season all over with salt and pepper. When the pan is nice and hot, add the chicken (skin side down) and cook until crispy and golden brown. Turn over and cook for another few minutes. The chicken doesn't need to be fully cooked yet - this will happen in the oven. The brown crust will add great flavour. Set aside.

4. To make the herby vinaigrette, place all the ingredients in a small food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Alternatively, chop everything as finely as possible and combine.

5. In either your overproof pan or a baking dish, arrange the canned tomatoes, then the chicken pieces and potatoes. Add the cherry tomatoes and olives, drizzle even all over with the vinaigrette. Season once more with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are a lovely golden brown. With about 10 minutes to go, add the bocconcini balls to the dish.

6. Sprinkle with fresh basil, and serve with garlic bread and / or a fresh green salad.

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