Friday, March 22, 2013

Master Recipe: Cast Iron Chicken

by EP

Cast. Iron. Skillet. The grand-daddy of cookware. For many years, I didn't have one of my own, but I know how great and versatile they can be, and how many delicious things can come out of them. For instance, we brought Xani's cast iron skillet to the beach with us this past summer (yes, along with 5000 lbs of beach stuff and lots of food, booze, and other kitchen tools), and we used it almost every time we cooked.

Only recently did I come into possession of a cast iron skillet.* I've wanted one for a long time but never got around to buying one, and I have so many great pans (gifts from the BCD parents, to be sure) that I didn't really need one. Now that I have my own, however, I can't stop using it and thinking of ways to use it - I want to make everything in it! Steak, corn bread, apple tarte tatin, fried chicken, buttery croutons for Caesar salad.

But there's one master recipe that both Xani and I have been making in our respective cast iron skillets. We're calling it Cast Iron Chicken, where chicken is seared and then roasted on a bed of veggies that are in turn seasoned with chicken fat and drippings. Xani pioneered the recipe and should get the majority of the creative credit for this one. We make this recipe over and over in our homes because it's infinitely modifiable and it's SO good. We felt we had to share the Master Recipe with you, Dear Reader.

Here's the blueprint of this master recipe:

- Chicken legs and/or thighs (skin on; with bone or deboned - deboning will give you a chance to work on your butchery skills!)
- Roast-able veggie (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, red or green cabbage, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, parsnips), prepped (broccoli/cauliflower into florets; cabbage shredded; potatoes/sweet potatoes/carrots/parsnips into chunks or batons and par-cooked)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Dry chicken pieces thoroughly with paper towels
- Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and any other flavors you like (see note below)
- Heat about 1 TB olive oil and 1 TB butter in cast iron skillet over high heat until almost smoking
- Sear chicken pieces skin side down for 5 minutes until golden brown (and pieces release easily from pan)
- Flip chicken pieces and sear 2-3 minutes on non-skin side
- Remove chicken and set aside
- Pour off all but 1-2 TB of fat in pan (olive oil + chicken fat rendered out = YUM)
- Toss in prepped veggies, season with salt and pepper, stir to coat in fat/drippings and cook for 1-2 min on stovetop
- Place chicken pieces atop veggies
- Place skillet with chicken and veggies into oven and bake for 30-40 min (if the chicken has bones, it will take longer than boneless)
- Let chicken rest for 5 min before plating and serving
- Enjoy!

The key is to roast the veggies until softened but not to overcook the chicken. That's why the chicken only cooks for a few minutes on the stove top. I like to roast the sh*t out of my veggies (typically broccoli and cabbage) so I check throughout the cooking time to make sure they are softening and caramelizing appropriately.

Regarding seasoning, this is a great opportunity to try out flavor "themes." Want Mediterranean? Season the chicken with lemon, garlic, oregano and serve over potatoes. Want an Eastern European/Jewish variety? Season chicken with paprika and garlic and serve over cabbage seasoned with caraway. Once I added an Italian flare by squeezing a lemon and grating some parm over the chicken and broccoli.  Another time I had some harissa leftover from another recipe so I rubbed that on the chicken before searing, which gave it a nice kick. And so on and so forth.

Here are some iterations that have come out of our kitchens:

Chicken thighs with potatoes and cauliflower
Chicken thighs (deboned) with broccoli (parm and lemon added at the end)

Chicken thighs over shredded red cabbage seasoned with hot pepper flakes
 Obviously, we are big fans. This is such a fantastic and easily modifiable recipe featuring a few good (yet cheap) ingredients and a few important kitchen techniques. It's great for using up random veggies, can be low-carb if you're thinking that way, and it's great for a casual weeknight meal or to serve to company.

So grab your skillet and get cookin!


* The skillet was my grandparents'. I inherited it after our Grandfather passed away in January. I love the fact that they cooked with it for who knows how many years. I love feeling connected to them through cookware. Very special, indeed.


  1. This recipe is perfection. Just reading the post makes me want to take some chicken out of the freezer and make it again this weekend!

    Our cast-iron skillet supposedly belonged to Dave's great grandfather and it was in horrible condition when he discovered it. But as this Ruhlman post describes, even neglected cast iron can be brought back to life!

  2. E-when you posted somewhere this recipe was coming, I couldn't wait to try it so I ran out and found some other recipes. One that was amazing - just for the chicken though, Calls for no pre-browning. Heat the cast iron in the oven at 500. place chicken pieces (thighs/legs) skin side down 15 mins, turn them over and do another 15. The skin is to.die.for. It also set off the smoke alarm. Definitely going to try this method - it looks less smoky!

  3. Coffee chicken recipe - my favorite: -

    Place all but the chicken into a 5qt, pot with lid, then bring to a boil and stir frequently.
    After that reduce the heat to simmer and reduce to almost half. Stir often because this can burn easily. Let it cool, off the heat. Now add chicken and blend well. Marinate not more than 30 minutes in some cool place.Turn into baking dish and bake uncovered at 350 degrees Celsius for one hour. Baste for at least three times while baking. Cut cholesterol down further by using boneless skinless chicken breasts.

    Try it and let me know if you like it.
    Finn Felton
    Kopi Luwak

  4. put this on my birthday list.


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