Work is threatening to eat me alive. I don't seem able to do much more than stew some canned beans for dinner, or pour myself a bowl of cereal. And so, in order to feed myself something a bit more interesting, I resorted to a source I've usually turned my nose up at. Desperate times call for desperate measures, or so I thought.
You see, I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to food. Well, you knew that already, right? A snob to some, a principled eater to others. When it comes to food magazines, there are only a few that print recipes I find appealing, and Bon Appetit always seemed a little too reliant on packaged foodstuffs to whet my appetite consistently (though it does have some damned fine contributers: Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz, I'm looking at you).
But then Bon Appetit went and issued their 50th anniversary cookbook, and Leslie Brenner at the LA Times had lunch with Barbara Fairchild and forced her to name her favorite recipes. And lo, Barbara listed a dish of roasted bone-in chicken breasts with cherry tomatoes (is there a better tomato?) that sounded absolutely luscious (don't even get me started on the chocolate-toffee cookies named in the article - don't you worry, they're next. I went to five different stores last night seeking Skor bars.).
And Barbara was absolutely right. This is one delicious dinner dish. You take bone-in chicken breasts, plop them on a rimmed sheet, and top them with cherry tomatoes that have been slicked with oil and sprinkled with fresh marjoram (I didn't have any, so I went with the dried rosemary from my grandfather's garden that my mother wrapped up in newspaper and I smuggled across the Italian ocean - shhh). There are some crushed garlic cloves in there as well, and then a judicious sprinkling of salt across the top.
In the hot oven, the chicken crisps and blisters deliciously, while the tomatoes shrivel and caramelize and their sweet flavor intensifies. The rosemary scent blooms and the garlic toasts and the whole thing smells maddeningly good.
It also tastes fantastic, and is so easy that you don't even really need the recipe once you've made it for the first time. I halved the recipe, because I was cooking only for myself last night, and now I've got glorious leftovers for lunch. (Oh, and if you steam up a pile of green beans to round out the meal, dribbling them with the pan juices is a lovely way to dress them. The fact that your dressing is partially made of chicken fat is completely beside the point. The salty, herbal, pungent drippings make for a delicious green-bean dunker.)
I'm not signing up for a Bon Appetit subscription any time soon, but this dish is going in the vault.
Spicy Roast Chicken
24 ounces whole cherry tomatoes (about 4 cups), stemmed
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram, divided (or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, and none for garnish)
4 bone-in chicken breasts (10 to 12 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon marjoram in a large bowl to combine.
2. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken, arranging the tomatoes in a single layer on the sheet around the chicken. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes are blistered, about 35 minutes.
3. Transfer the chicken to plates. Spoon the tomatoes and juices over the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram and serve.