Monday, January 31, 2011


Last week we had no power for just under two days. Sadly, this is becoming a regular occurrence in my area. Winter or summer, it seems that as soon as the wind blows (or snow or rain), so blows our transformer. In this case, it was an entire substation that "blew," knocking out power to two entire zip codes and providing a light and sound show that we thought was multi-colored lightning and accompanying thundersnow, and others thought was everything from said pink, purple and green lightning to the arrival of aliens. Truly, the rumbling that sounded like the fighter jets overhead after 9/11 went on for two or three minutes, all the while the lights in the house dimmed to an unnatural level before finally going out completely. In the entire town.

Though this has not been covered in the mainstream media, the word in the area is that the roof of the substation caved in under six inches (six! Oh yeah, it was very heavy snow) of snow and caused a fire in the substation, hence supporting Paul's and my suspicion during our two outages in August that we are victims of the failure of aging and antiquated equipment. PEPCO would prefer we believe it was a lightning strike.

I know this sounds all conspiracy theory-ish, but in, fact, this is the subject not just on our neighborhood listserve but on the facebook wall of one of our state representatives. It's true - we lose power in my neighborhood with just about every storm, not due to power lines downed by falling tree limbs (though that can certainly happen too), but as a result of PEPCO's failure to maintain and update its equipment. Shocking, really, as we are a suburb of a major city in the US.

In August, we lost pretty much everything in our refrigerators and freezers (two of each). Twice. This time, though we were freezing in our 49 degree house, our refrigerated food was safe in coolers buried in the snow outside. At least the vast majority of our frozen food remained frozen this time, though we will be eating a lot of thawed country ham this week. I'm thinking fried rice, soups and maybe a pizza?

The afternoon before the storm, I bought a chicken. I also bought some turkey scallopine, but that I cooked on my gas stovetop (!) by candlelight one of the nights we had no power. The chicken, however, survived the storm in a Styrofoam cooler on the patio but once the power came back on I figured that I had better get that bird cooked. I had ideas of chicken in Riesling, and even had the creme fraiche in hand, along with red potatoes and carrots, but for a variety of boring reasons I went with a very delicious recipe from Gourmet which is mostly garlic, lemon juice and oregano. It reminds me of the Athenian Chicken they used to serve at our local diner. So, that was dinner last night along with a favorite food52 recipe for asparagus. In both recipes I subbed olive oil in for the butter. Actually, as the asparagus uses pancetta, I ended up wiping most of the pancetta fat out of the pan, leaving just a little and using a little olive oil. I added some cooked orzo to the asparagus to provide a little heft to the dish for Maddy after she had her three bites of chicken.

Chicken with Garlic and Oregano

(Adapted from Gourmet magazine, April 2009)

serves 4 - 6 depending on size of chicken, mine was huge so I think it will serve the three of us for two meals. However, it is much better right out of the oven.

1 whole chicken, cut up or 8 - 10 chicken thighs, with bone and skin
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Have a roasting pan or high sided sheet pan ready. I like to line mine with aluminum foil.

2. Mince garlic cloves then whisk together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a couple of pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

3. Pat chicken dry and coat with garlic/lemon/olive oil mixture.

4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and then add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Brown the chicken pieces skin-side down. You don't want to crowd the pan so it might take two batches. Check after 5 or so minutes, as you want the skin to get crispy, but you will not be cooking the chicken through. As each batch is ready, place skin side up on your pan.

5. In a small bowl, mix broth with remaining lemon juice and the oregano, and pour over the chicken.

6. Roast chicken approximately 25 - 30 minutes or until cooked through. If the chicken is a smaller one, 25 minutes should do it. With large pieces like I had this time, it took a little more than 30 minutes.

7. Grind a little black pepper over top of the chicken.

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