Pan-roasted chicken with confit lemons and onions
This dish is actually very simple to prepare, and takes very few ingredients. Make sure you buy the best chicken you can afford (free-range, organic, locally-raised if possible) -- it'll make a difference. While the method is simple, I've explained it in some detail because it's a great technique to learn -- you can modify it endlessly. I like pan-roasted chicken because you get a unctuous sauce without giving up the crisp chicken skin.
1 small chicken (2.5-3 lbs)
1/2 TB olive oil and 1/2 TB butter
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 large or 1 small lemon, sliced into 1/4" slices
1 tsp herbes de provence or dried thyme, or 2 tsp fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 c chicken broth
1. Cut the chicken into 4 parts: cut off the two leg/thigh sections from the body, and then cut the breasts/wings (top half of the chicken) away from the back. Cut the double-breasted piece down the middle so that you get two bone-in breast halves with the wings still attached. Cut off the wing tips and first joint, so you're left with the breast plus drumette, times two. Save the back and wing pieces for stock. For a great video tutorial on cutting up a chicken, click here: http://youtu.be/zW5BFvCmV7k
If this sounds complicated, just buy two chicken leg-plus-thighs and two breast halves on the bone, both with skin attached.
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.
2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and/or butter. When the fat is hot, place the chicken pieces, skin side down, in the pan. Allow the chicken to brown without disturbing it; shake the pan after a minute or two to make sure it's not sticking. (If it is, lower the heat a tad and let it continue to brown; it'll develop enough crust to release on its own.) Adjust the heat so the chicken doesn't scorch. When the chicken is golden brown, flip the pieces to brown the other side. Remove to a plate.
4. Add the onions and a good pinch of salt to the fat remaining in the pan and turn down to medium heat. Sauté until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the herbs, the bay leaf, and a few grinds of black pepper and mix once or twice, then lay the lemon pieces overtop. Add the chicken back to the pan along with 1 c chicken broth. Cover the skillet and let the broth come to a vigorous bubble. Baste the chicken with a bit of the broth-and-onion mixture.
5. Transfer the pan (without the lid) to the hot oven. Allow the chicken to cook for about 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness by making a nick into the bottom side of a chicken thigh; juices should run clear, with no red.
6. Remove pan from oven and let it hang out for a minute or two. Serve chicken with a bit of the now-reduced onions and melting, tart-sweet lemon slices alongside.