"You need to stay home, you need to stay away from people."
- a physician's assistant in NYC -
We are. Are you?
Sometimes reality hits you faster than you can process, which feels relevant to news these days. I find myself going about my life, adjusting to the first couple months of motherhood (where it's normal to be socially distant) and for a brief time I forget what our world is going through. And then, of course, I remember. I turn on the news, I think of my pregnant sister and friends and family who are coping with a scary new level of uncertainty, or I think about those whose lives are now fraught with crisis and loss.
It has felt reassuring to witness acts of generosity and thoughtfulness between people, which always seems to land as further evidence that if you give most people the chance, you'll see that they're good and that what they say and do make sense. As I write this, there is a couple who is leaving a couple bags of groceries on our elderly neighbor's front porch. I, like many people, see other positives as well. We have been forced to forgo every-day distractions, which is causing us to develop perspective with regards to how we choose to live our lives. We are re-connecting with loved ones and are forced to practice important ways of coping, like compassionately being with difficult feelings that we can't necessarily reassure with certainties (like "everything will be okay" - because we just don't know). We are getting outside, connecting with loved ones, and doing creative projects to take our minds off COVID-19.
In our family, cooking with one another (ideally with good music or a show playing in the background) and sitting down for a home cooked meal together is a favorite source of connection and reassurance when times are tough. As an approximation, we've been Facetime-ing and chatting about recipes, etc. After a recent conversation with my sister, I realized I have few savory meal-type recipes on my blog even though I cook more often than I bake, and thought I might share a recent recipe that we loved.
This recipe started with a decision to defrost a package of chicken legs that M fished out of our relatively full freezer.
A simple baked chicken leg recipe is one of our go-to weeknight meals. Typically, we sprinkle the legs with a few different random spices and compare to see which we like best. So far, favorites have been: S + P, smoked paprika, simple curry, and garam masala.
Deciding that we wanted to do something a little different (but not wanting to head to the grocery), we thought: a sauce! Honestly, I'm a little intimidated by sauces, so I don't typically feel the need to make a sauce. But Piccata is an uncomplicated sauce that uses familiar ingredients (which are easy to keep on hand - important during this time!). All of this made it a reassuring place to begin. The outcome worked beautifully.
I hope you enjoy!
Roast Chicken Leg "Piccata" over Mashed Potatoes
to serve 2 (and a little leftover)
6 Chicken legs (or consider 4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs)
S + P, to taste
roast chicken sediments
1/3 c white wine
1/3 c chicken broth
juice of 1 lemon
2 TBSP capers
2 TBSP mayonnaise
1 glug olive oil
1 clove garlic
S + P, to taste
Preheat your oven to 425.
Chicken Legs: Pat dry your chicken legs (so important! this is a step that not everyone knows to follow, but it's the only way to get crispy chicken skin). I dry my chicken with paper towel. We use reusable towels in our kitchen to be as eco-friendly as possible, but I keep a roll of paper towel under the sink for drying meat.
Salt and pepper you legs, lay them out on a metal baking sheet, and place in the center rack of the oven. Cook for approximately 40-45 minutes (or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees).
Mashed Potatoes: Place a pot of lightly salted water on the stove to boil. Large enough to hold your two potatoes.
Clean, peel, and chop your potatoes (I sometimes like to leave the peel in my mashed potatoes, so leave them if you'd like!). Chop each potato into 6-or-so pieces. Add to your pot and boil until a fork easily pierces the potato. About 10 minutes.
Strain potatoes using a colander or mesh strainer. Dump your boiled water and return cooked potatoes to their warm pot.
Use a potato masher or fork to mash your potatoes. Add your mayonnaise and vigorously whisk (or use an electric mixer to blend) until smooth. Forgo the whisk and just use your masher/fork if you like potato pieces in your mash.
Sauce: Remove chicken from its pan and use a spatula to scoop your chicken sediment into a sauce pan. Place over medium heat on your burner. Add chicken broth, white wine, lemon juice and capers. Reduce your sauce a bit until you like the taste.
Plating: Don't plate yet! Want to maintain crispy chicken skin? Consider the following plating tip from Bon Appetit's Alex Delany: plate your sauce beneath your protein so the sauce doesn't transform your crispy chicken skin into soggy-gross-stuff. Go ahead: Dollop your mashed potatoes on a plate, spoon your sauce over your potatoes, and then add a few chicken legs.
Sides: This meal would be delicious with some kind sautéed green (imagine a little garlicy spinach or swiss chard). But, we ate it with this salad. M eats his salad on the side (like a normal person) whereas I eat mine on the same plate because I like to mix it all together. Mixing a cold salad with warm saucy mashed potatoes probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I love it. Back in STL, I used to eat lunch at Whole Foods all the time and would start with a salad base, plop some mashed potatoes right on top, and add all sorts of other goodies. Honestly, I rarely cook an "appropriate dinner veggie" (you know - green beans, broccoli, asparagus) to go with most of our meals in favor of a "side" salad (because, who cares - make what you like best!)!