The French would have a totally ridiculous and complicated name for this, but that’s why we laugh at them behind their backs and hate their cars.

This is what I call chicken-noir: all dark and shadowy. I cropped out the detective's hat.
This is what I call chicken-noir: all dark and shadowy. I cropped out the detective's hat.

I’m not usually a zen kinda guy. In fact, all that slow breathing and imagining oneself as an empty piece of foliage just makes me want to sing theme-songs from childhood TV shows. Loudly, and in as many inappropriate silences as possible.

No, I prefer to think of the all-too-infrequent occasions when things just go right as more like being some sort of ‘cosmic groove’, where for once the Universe has decided to fall in step with you for a short while, before going back to the ‘business as usual’ pursuit of doing unpleasant things to you with loofah-shaped bits of the dark horrible parts of the galaxy. You know…the parts with all the black holes, left over scraps of NASA and gaseous expansions and stuff.

Oh dear, reading that sentence back to myself makes me sound like I should be living in a forest and wearing a hat made from the teeth of a deer. Oh well, damage done.

This is a rather winding way of saying that the other night I made something really quite nice, completely without realizing what was going on.  I hadn’t planned on cooking (red wine and microwave popcorn with msg-powder is not a combo to be sniffed at), I hadn’t gone shopping and I didn’t have anything in mind. Things just sort of happened while I was watching the second season of Californication and somehow, two hours later I was eating something I’m actually quite proud of – mostly for its simplicity and also because it ended up being so good I wished my autopilot self had taken into account what a gluttonous bastard I am.

Stewed Potatoes with Rosemary and Lime Chicken

Ingredients (for 2)

1 large clove of garlic

1 medium-sized brown onion

½ a dried chilli (finely chopped)

a handful of parsley (also finely chopped)

1 can of whole peeled tomatoes

2 large potatoes

2 cups of warm chicken stock

olive oil

2 chicken breasts

4 or 5 healthy stalks of rosemary

lime juice

salt

pepper

What to do

Peel and then finely chop up the clove of garlic and do the same with the onion. Have your chopped chilli and parsley at the ready somewhere. In a largish pot, heat up a slug of olive oil and then add the onions and garlic. When they’ve started to fry up to a point where they’re just beginning to go golden, add the chilli and the parsley. Stir it up so that its nicely combined and then add the tin of tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to bash up the tomatoes a bit so that it settles into a sauce, lower the heat a bit and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or so.

While that’s getting on, chop the potatoes into smallish chunks (about 2cm thick and you can also leave the skin on), and get the warm chicken stock ready (obviously I’d say use home-made stock, but if you’re using cubes, just taste it first – some of them are very salty and you don’t want to overdo it here).  Add the potatoes to the pot, and stir them in so that they got a good coating of the tomato, then add the stock. At this point you’ll have a strangely odd-looking potato soupy-looking affair – but fear not. Turn the heat down to a medium, put the lid on and let this simmer for an hour. By this time, all the excess liquid will have boiled away and you’ll be left with thick, rich and almost impossibly delicious silky potato-chunks in a sort of tomato gravy.

While this is simmering away, chop up the rosemary and then using a spoon, your hands or whatever blunt thing you can find, bash the rosemary into the chicken on all sides. Don’t be afraid to get rough – you really want the rosemary to get right into the fibers of the bird. Twist some salt and pepper over the chicken and then drizzle a couple of teaspoons of lime juice over each breast and leave it to get to know each other while the potatoes go at it.

Just before the potatoes are ready, heat a pan with a little bit of olive oil and pan-fry the chicken. Spoon any of the rosemary/lime juice that’s been left behind over it as it’s cooking.  Once it’s done, put everything on a plate and make sure there’s something good on TV. I know it’s all very simple, but I was really surprised by how well it turned out

Just a quick aside, I’m really beginning to appreciate the incredibly underrated power of parsley. My normal instinct would have been to do this with basil, but for some reason I went with parsley instead – and therein I think is the secret of this little number. Okay, carry on…

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2 thoughts on “The French would have a totally ridiculous and complicated name for this, but that’s why we laugh at them behind their backs and hate their cars.

  1. Hi,

    I really enjoy reading your blog.

    And I just had to say,sometimes the best way of to cook is cooking on autopilot, that is if you know hat you are doing. You can discover wonderful things. It often turns out great.

    Although this does not apply to my digsmate Richard, who thinks that pasta + sauce + whatever herbs, sauce spices are on the counter should all go into the pot to make an interesting food experiment!

    Mike E

  2. I once tried to make a pasta sauce where the principal ingredient was strawberry jam. Needless to say my mother (who was the unfortunate to whom it was fed) was very polite and didn’t say anything. But she did leave the country the next day.

    True story.

    Glad you’re enjoying the blog.

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