Date nights are the time to fry parsley. The other days, where there are five mouths to feed and several of them claim allergies to green things, are for simple food and continual reminders to eat your vegetables. But date nights, those are for long simmered risottos, chicken thighs seared to a crisp and emerald leaves fried until their green brightens and pungent grassy flavor turns deep and almost meaty.
Gabe and I tucked into April Bloomfield’s restaurant, The Breslin, during a quick book tour trip to NYC. The clock said breakfast time but our stomachs still on west coast time demanded a burger and caesar salad. There I met fried parsley. It sat high and mighty atop my salad while its statuesque figure intrigued me. Using my fingers I plucked the garnish and bit into the leaf which shattered on my tongue. “Taste this!” I demanded of Gabe with a giddy excitement that he delights in but doesn’t always seem to understand. “It’s good.” He said trying, yet failing, to match my glee.
It tasted almost like anchovy. Sure anchovy was in the salad but somehow the herb itself, light in flavor when fresh, took on a hearty, savory taste once fried.
These are the sort of things that get me excited about our date. I mean of course I love the time with my husband too but sometimes it’s the food nerd in me that marvels at the wonder of fried parsley that motivates me to bound into the kitchen to make us a meal worthy of a date.
Is it too early to imagine spring’s arrival? Perhaps but I like to think that this recipe tips to that notion. It’s comforting and hearty but not heavy. Sure there’s a good bit of cheese and a robust roastiness from the cauliflower but it’s not overly indulgent. Maybe it’s because the meal goes perfectly with a glass of chardonnay that my mind is already dreaming about crisp glasses of wine sipped slowly in the sun. Soon enough.
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Roasted Cauliflower Risotto
This dish pairs beautifully with Chardonnay.
1/2 head cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 thyme sprig
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 cup grated comté or gruyere cheese
4 small sprigs Italian Parsley
2 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Chef 1: Add the cauliflower to a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Roast for 20 - 25 minutes or until tender and caramelized in parts.
Chef 2: Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the shallots and thyme with a pinch of salt and sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Sauté the rice with the shallots for just a couple of minutes before adding the wine. Stir until the wine is absorbed then start stirring in the chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time making sure the liquid is absorbed before each addition.
Cook until the rice is tender. The risotto would be quite loose when finished. Stir in the cheese and roasted cauliflower then taste and add more salt as needed. Remove the thyme sprig before serving.
Chef 1: Sear the chicken in a hot skillet, skin side down, for 5 minutes. Carefully flip over the chicken then bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan to rest then very carefully add the parsley to the hot skillet and fry in the chicken grease until crisp, about 30 seconds.
Chef 2: Serve the risotto and chicken with the toasted pine nuts and crispy parsley.
I hope you don’t mind if I keep this post brief. You see currently sitting in the sun, body tired after an afternoon in the pool with the kids. The wind softens the sun’s heat and moves my hair just enough to tickle my cheeks. The palm branches nearby sound like faint clapping as the breeze whips through their leaves. I’ll take their clapping as an assurance that we’re currently winning at life. It’s nearly beer-thirty and then shortly after that we’ll ignite the grill for our fish tacos. If you now want to punch me in the face I totally get it. But wait, wait, wait, before you go and leave me here alone I am taking a brief pause in our sunny vacation to tell you about burritos; Creamy braised chicken burritos with a punchy pickled corn salsa.
These have quickly become a family favorite for a couple of reasons. For me I love their ease and the ability to cook something once and have the leftovers make up an entirely new meal the next day. (Chicken and Rice bowls!). The kids love it because it is one of those dinners where the table is littered with plates and they are given the freedom to add to their burrito whatever they desire. They are particularly fond of those custom meals and I am too because I hear far less grumbling. And the third reason is always the most important to me – they simply taste delicious. I know as a food writer I am pretty much banned from using that word in abundance but sometimes it is called for and here, I will argue, it is needed.
I like a simple burrito with just the chicken, salsa, and a good bit of spinach or other greens but it’s nice to have rice and beans as an option as well and then, like I said, you are set with tomorrow’s dinner of rice bowls.
Creamy Braised Chicken Burritos with Pickled Corn Salsa
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion sliced
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 peppers sliced
2 teaspoons salt
3 chicken breasts, about 3 pounds
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup cream cheese
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice and zest from 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Saute the onions, garlic and peppers in olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add chicken, salt, pepper, paprika, parsley, dill, chives, cream cheese and the zest and juice of 1 lime. Give the whole pot a few stirs then cover and braise in a 400°F oven for 45 - 60 minutes. Peer into the pot and give it a good stir every once in awhile.
Using two forks shred the chicken and let it linger in its sauce.
Make the corn salsa while the chicken braises.
Mix together corn, jalapeño, cilantro, red onion, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, lime, cumin seeds and salt. Let this sit for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Serve the burritos with beans, rice, greens, cilantro and avocado.