Sticky Chicken

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For the first time in a couple months, my homework and cooking weekend routine was pleasantly interrupted. I got to spend time with not one, but THREE close friends over the course of three days. On Thursday Cara and Daigle dropped by for a brief coffee date and gave Jonji and I the low-down on the recent happenings of Santa Cruz. We ran into the long-haired version of Cary Hair, who works at the coffee shop around the block from us and who was also very willing to let us take photos of him.

I’ve been becoming more obsessed with coffee every day. Last weekend I said to Jonji, “All I want to do is have another cup of coffee,” to which he replied, “You literally just said that to me.” I did say I was obsessed. If I were not on the art student budget, I would definitely make myself two or three cups a day. It’s partially the love of the ritual that attracts me to it—putting the water on, grinding the coffee, smelling the coffee, measuring out the water, et cetera. Drinking coffee is comforting, warming, and actually a bit inspiring. I feel like I get much more work done when I have a cup of coffee close at hand. I don’t even notice a caffeine spike; the only difference is that I get a bit sweatier. The more, the merrier, right?

After class on Thursday night I headed to LAX, which is only a few minutes from Otis. I immediately got lost and started driving around aimlessly, hoping I’d happen to find Cristy, who was waiting for me to pick her up. Somehow I made a wrong turn and careened into a semi-truck unloading zone, which plopped me out, frazzled and white-knuckled, onto a one-way street that miraculously led me to the right terminal. Getting lost has truly never gone better for me.

The next day we again went to the same coffee shop as before, called the Venice Grind, where we were surprised to see Cary Hair 2.0 no longer with long hair. We tried a breakfast place right next to the Grind where we had some wonderful steak and eggs with chimichurri and corn tortillas. Jonji left to take his final exam around noon and Cristy and I journeyed to Santa Monica, sweating in the 100 degree weather. LA seems to have decided that it’s not anywhere close to being ready for the fall season. We have miniature pumpkins on our table but I can hardly fall asleep because the heat decides to concentrate all of its power onto my feet—something’s not right here (did I just make up a rap line? I think so). Anyway, in Santa Monica we went to Huckleberry, a bakery owned by a woman who used to work at Tartine. Overall, the food was good, but no where close to Tartine’s excellence (sorry, Huckleberry). Although I did devour the morning bun rather quickly when Jonji later told me I could have it—that thing was gone in about 2 minutes. But who was I to let it go stale? At this point, I don’t expect any bakery to get near Tartine’s level. On the bright side, Huckleberry did have excellent iced coffee.

We walked around Santa Monica a bit more but the sun soon became too much, so we left. I dropped Cristy off at her friend’s house around dinner time, and then went back home. Jonji and I decided to be adventurous in celebration of him finishing his first test, so we went to Abbot Kinney for the Friday Food Truck event. It took us roughly twenty minutes to park, and by that time I had no idea in which direction to walk, partially because we took a series of nice alleyways between the fancy houses. Luckily, I was not by myself, so I did not get lost. Then again, I would never have gone down an alleyway if I had been by myself. We finally made it to Abbot Kinney and saw, to our dismay, that each food truck had a line of about 50 people. Our gung-ho spirits quickly fading, we began walking up and down the strip, looking for a restaurant. We finally decided to go to sushi closer to home, so we trekked all the way to the car and drove back the way we’d come. Fortunately, the sushi place was phenomenal, with extremely fresh fish and lightly fried tempura. We were even going to participate in their sake tasting deal, but, alas, our adventurous spirits were forced to take another beating as the waiter told us the deal was only available Monday through Thursday. The night ended with a chocolate bar and a couple episodes of Veep back at home. Quite a successful Friday night, if you ask me!

Saturday was more of a normal day, with homework and CrossFit taking precedent over all else. Kelsey invited herself over (her words, not mine—I really invited her!) for dinner, and we spent a lovely evening catching up over lasagna and ice cream, which she had so sweetly (no pun intended) brought for us. Whoever made the decision to put carrot cake in ice cream is a wonderful human being.

As I’m sure you’ve all become aware of over the last few posts, I am busier than I’ve ever been before. Therefore, my dinner plans have had to mainly consist of recipes with short prep times. The following recipe is one of those recipes. It is best made during the summer, when tomatoes are overflowing out of almost every booth at the market. Luckily, at least in this one regard, I now live in a hot place where tomatoes flourish, so I’ve been making this dish quite often. It’s extremely easy and always satisfying. Feel free to use another kind of tomato than roma, but make sure they’re medium or large so they have enough juice to release into the pot. Happy cooking!

Sticky Chicken

serves 4–5 • inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe in Jamie at Home

2.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into thirds
1–1.5 lbs fingerling or other small potatoes**
at least 2 lbs heirloom, dry farm, cherry, or other in-season tomatoes (a mix is ideal)*
roughly 8 sprigs oregano or marjoram, leaves removed and stems discarded
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
olive oil
salt and pepper

*The more tomatoes you use, the more of a tomato broth you will get—the broth is phenomenal. Also, if you’re in a pinch or tomatoes aren’t in season, feel free to use two 28oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes.
**If you can only find larger potatoes, simply chop them into chunks roughly the size of a golf ball before boiling.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Sprinkle the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.

Place a medium-sized pot filled with water over high heat and pour in a small handful’s worth of kosher salt. When the water boils, add 1-1.5 lbs potatoes and boil until they easily slide off a fork. (If you’re in a hurry, you can skip this step and simply slice the raw potatoes into bite-sized pieces and toss them with the browned chicken and tomatoes before baking.)

While the potatoes boil, heat a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add a couple glugs of olive oil (roughly 2 tbsp) to the pan. Place chicken thighs, skin-side down, on the pan until the bottom of the pan is covered with an even layer—do not overcrowd (this step will take a few batches, so be patient). Brown each side of the thighs, a few minutes per side. Set browned chicken aside and continue working through batches until all the chicken is done.

Once the potatoes are done, place 2 lbs tomatoes in a large bowl. Using a sieve, pour the boiled water containing the potatoes over the tomatoes, and set aside the potatoes. Let the tomatoes sit in the boiling water for 1-2 minute, then drain.

Return the chicken, and any accumulated juices, back into the large pan or dutch oven. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan. Do likewise with the tomatoes (take off the skins if you wish—skins tend to contribute a nice tartness, but usually I remove some of the larger ones and leave the skins on all cherry tomatoes).

With a mortar and pestle, roughly mash a couple sprigs-worth of oregano leaves with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 garlic clove, and 2 tbsp red wine vinegar. Pour onto the chicken mixture. Add all other oregano leaves, plus a couple glugs of olive oil, a few hefty pinches of salt and some pepper, into the pan as well. Stir a few times so as to mix everything together well, then place the whole thing in the oven. Cook for 40–45 minutes, until the top layer of chicken is lightly browned.

Serve with a ladle so as to catch all the lovely tomato juice at the bottom!

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