chicken and tomatoes forever
there's no anchovy here but...there could be
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My summer recipes, I would argue, are some of my most boring. I don’t mean this in a self-deprecating way– I think that there is a time and place for boring. Some of my favorite things on earth are boring: salt and pepper on buttered toast, “going for a walk,” regular white t-shirts, very cold ice water, staring off into the middle distance in an air-conditioned room. But boring, as we all know, can be spectacular (see: salt and pepper on buttered toast). To me, boring doesn’t have to be a symptom of laziness, it can also be a celebration of simplicity. And simplicity, as we all know, is spectacular (see: middle distance, air-conditioned room).
Anyway, anyone who’s ever had a tomato with crunchy salt or cucumber with a splash of good vinegar understands to do anything overly elaborate to a lovingly grown and perfectly in-season and vegetable would be a huge disservice. I feel similarly about chicken, where I appreciate a maximum of 4–5 ingredients involved, and two of them are salt and pepper. It’s probably for that reason that two ingredients who prefer to be pretty much left alone, do so well together.
Chicken and tomatoes: great alone, perhaps better together. Roasted low and slow together till both parties are falling apart and sticky with their own juices, this dish from Nothing Fancy is still probably one of the best things I’ve ever made or tasted. But it’s too hot now, and my window AC unit is good, but not so good I can keep my oven on for over three hours.
So it’s a stovetop chicken for me, still tender and falling apart, but saucy rather than crispy. Tangy rather than sweet, juicy rather than sticky. The chicken is simple, as it likes to be: bone-in, skin-on pieces seared in a pot, garlic toasted, onions lightly cooked and chili flake bloomed in the rendered chicken fat, brown bits scraped up with some vinegar, then everything lightly (and quickly) braised for under 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, the onions are jammy and the sauce is…saucy. This is magic enough, but pouring the whole thing over a bed of very ripe tomatoes and some thinly sliced onion, letting the juices co-mingle and create something better than the sum of their parts is why we cook in the summer.
Thank you to Maker’s Mark for sponsoring this week’s episode of Home Movies!
Spicy Vinegar Chicken over Tomatoes
Chicken and tomatoes love to be treated simply and basically left alone (who among us), but they really do sing together. A quick sear and gentle braise in a spicy, vinegar bath, this chicken is perfect on its own, but truly transcendent when served over (not next to) a bed of tomatoes and raw onion, effectively an excellent two-for-one chicken and salad together forever. For the chicken, use any combination of pieces or parts (I like to cut mine from a whole chicken- save the backbone in the freezer for soup/stock), but a package of thighs or breasts or any combo of both would be perfect– just be sure to use bone-in, skin-on. The flavor from both pays dividends to the sauce, which you’ll surely want to drink on its own.
1 3 ½–4 lb. chicken, cut into pieces with the bone-in (or just 3–3 ½ lbs. Bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, such as legs and thighs, all thighs, etc.)
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, plus more
½ cup white distilled vinegar
1 red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound tomatoes, thinly sliced
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium–high heat. Working in batches and starting with the largest pieces, add chicken skin side down and cook until deeply golden brown on one side, 8–10 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until browned on both sides, another 3–4 minutes.
2. Transfer chicken to a large plate or rimmed baking sheet and repeat with remaining chicken, turning heat down ever so slightly during the second batch if needed (the pot will already be very hot and you don’t want anything to burn).
3. Add 4 cloves of crushed garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to the pot, letting it all sizzle in the chicken fat a minute or two. Scatter over about ¾ of the sliced onions and stir, scraping up any fond from the bottom of the pot. Cook onions about 2–3 minutes, just to take the edge off and start to soften.
4. Return chicken back to the pot, skin-side up, nestling everything in there nice and tight (overlapping is fine). Add ½ cup vinegar and ⅓ cup water. Season everything (the liquid, the onions) with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.
5. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium–low and let cook on the stovetop, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is slightly thickened and twice as delicious as when it started, 8–10 minutes (perhaps a bit longer for especially large chicken pieces).
6. Meanwhile, scatter tomatoes and remaining sliced onion on a large serving platter or your largest dinner plate and season with salt. Using tongs or two forks, transfer chicken on top of the tomatoes. Dip a spoon into the sauce and taste it, seasoning again with salt, pepper and vinegar if you think it needs it. Spoon all the sauce and cooked onions over the chicken and tomatoes and finish with a drizzle of olive oil, some flaky salt, more crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper. I’m not a basil girl, but now would be the time.
DO AHEAD: Chicken can be made a few hours in advance– I wouldn’t even re-heat it honestly. That said, the leftovers of this chicken make VERY good soup– basically pull the chicken from the bones, add water or broth and finish with herbs– here’s a good recipe to get you inspired/started.
If you’re looking for a dutch oven to invest in, it’s gonna be Le Creuset every time. They’re classic and durable, come in an array of sizes and colors (the one I’m using is the color “flame”— my favorite), and will be a workhorse in your kitchen forever.
I use my Boos Block cutting board just about every day—yes, even when I’m cutting raw chicken—scandalous!! My method for keeping it clean and safe to use is washing it right after I use it with an antibacterial soap, then again with dish soap.
Everyone needs a giant satin scrunchie, doesn’t matter where it comes from. These are cute!