Red Chicken with Paprika, Onions and Potatoes

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remember that time i lost my job and i thought my life was over and so i started a blog, thinking it would be my saving grace? me too. and for a little while, it was – my saving grace, that is – because it kept me sane, and made me feel like i was doing something productive with my life.

and of course, i had delusional dreams of publishing a beautifully shot (by someone else, my photos are all instagram, all the way) cookbook someday, and maybe of being a guest on the martha stewart show, and telling my kids that i found my true calling when i got laid off.

but then i got a new job. and it was (is) wonderful, but hard. and time-consuming. and so while i’ve still been cooking (though not as much), i haven’t been blogging. for the three of you that have asked why, here’s why: i’ve been swamped at work, and when i come home, or am home, i’m too sleepy to type up a blog post. meanwhile, i haven’t been too sleepy to work my way through three seasons of the good wife (which, by the way, is THE BEST SHOW EVER and you must watch it) or to take pictures of my cat sleeping in my dresser drawer or to buy the perfect fall hat. clearly, my priorities are a little out of whack.

but thankfully, things have slowed down a bit, and i feel like i finally have brain space to start contributing to my blog again, so here i am – you know, for the three people that still read it/wonder what i’ve been making.

so, what have i been making? lots of things, one of which is what my family affectionately calls “red chicken” – we’re so creative, aren’t we? red chicken is one of the simplest, yet most delicious, recipes around. it’s a great crowd pleaser for a dinner party, it only takes about 2 hours to make, start to finish, including cooking time, and chances are, you already have everything you need to make it in your pantry. so while it’s not exactly “fast” food, it is simple but yummy food.

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We look alike, don’t we?

my mother has been making this chicken for as long as i can remember. it’s what she cooked when she got home from work early enough to make something nice. it’s what she cooked as soon as the leaves turned and the humidity  magically disappeared from the air. so, it’s no surprise that it’s also what i cook as soon as the leaves turn and the humidity magically disappears from the air. a couple of weekends ago, armed with a few bottles of superb gruner vetliner (an austrian white wine that’s uber delish) and a whole lot potatoes and onions from the farmer’s market, i set out to throw my own mini dinner party, complete with 3 hungry friends and a 4 pound chicken.

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Biased foodie friends

now, my friends are biased, but according to them, this recipe is GOOD. and i’ve been eating it for 20 years and i’m still not sick of it, so that must say something, right? want to make it for yourself and wow your own friends? here’s what to do.

The Recipe

there are no measurements to this baby – it’s true fly by the seat of your pants cooking.

step 1: purchase a chicken – size is up to you; 4 pounds fed me and three friends with leftovers.

step 2: dump a couple of tablespoons of paprika into a small bowl – you want enough to cover the bottom and then some. next, add a layer of garlic powder. then add some salt and pepper. swirl the mixture around with your finger and then pop a finger in your mouth. taste the spices. see what you think. it should be mostly paprika, but you want a definite garlic flavor in there too. add more spices according to your tastes. don’t worry, you can’t mess this up.

step 3: chop up about four potatoes and 2 yellow onions – not small; bigger than bite size. you want to cover the bottom of your baking pan with potatoes and onions, so if your chicken/pan is bigger, you might need more (or you might need less). again, you can’t  mess this up. go with your gut. spread potatoes and onions out in the bottom of your baking pan.

step 4: mix in a little bit of water to your spice mixture – enough to form a paste. stir.

step 5: put the chicken on top of the potatoes/onions. now, use your fingers (wash them first!) to spread the paste all over the chicken. if you can stomach it, get the spice paste under the skin. this will make it taste better.

step 6: there will still be a bit of paste left in your bowl. instead of rinsing it and throwing it in the dishwasher, fill the bowl up with water. this will act as your initial “marinade” – so pour it around the chicken. you don’t have to fully cover the potato/onion layer, but make sure there’s at least 1/2 inch of water around the perimeter.

step 7: bake at 350 for about 1.5-2 hours. the time will vary based on your oven.

step 8: MOST IMPORTANTLY: baste your chicken every 20 minutes with the “marinade” you made at the base of the pan. you will probably have to add more water to the base of the pan every so often – this is fine, the spices will begin to drip down from the chicken as it bakes, making for a yummy sauce.

step 9: your chicken is done when a meat thermometer reads about 165 degrees. insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken (the breast) to test the temperature.

step 10: to serve, divvy up the potatoes and onions into a bowl, and slice the chicken, then plate it. use your baster to suck up all the extra gravy you’ve made over the course of cooking time, and serve that with the chicken as well – the extra gravy is what makes it.

MMM MMMM GOOD!

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