Saturday, May 21, 2011

Roasted Cardamom, Oregano and Garlic Chicken Thighs

I wrote briefly about these chicken thighs from Deborah Krasner's Good Meat cookbook in the cookbook giveaway post.  After the counts and recounts were tallied this recipe won the right to be shared here.  While the list of ingredients is short the flavor is complex and satisfying.  Cardamom is an ingredient many people have not played with so this chicken will have an elusive flavor and fragrance, a touch of romance.  Please remember to leave enough time to remove the cardamom seeds from the pods.  Harvesting the seeds can be time consuming but worth it.

The first time I made this dish I was running out of Kosher salt and had to use less then the printed recipe called for.  When I made it a second time I used the full tablespoon and it was too much.  I sent Deborah a message and she confirmed that a full tablespoon must be a typo.  The measurement below is a more modest amount.

As I met Deborah Krasner on Facebook it seems fitting to share Hippo Flambé's new facebook page on this post.  My plan is to share food related links, random thoughts on food and life and links to my new posts.  I would love it if you would go and "like" it.  Please join Hippo Flambé on Facebook.

Roasted Cardamom, Oregano and Garlic Chicken Thighs

Reprinted with permission from Good Meat, (with notes from the test kitchen of Hippo Flambe included).

Adapted from a recipe by Greg Malouf in Artichoke to Za'atar, this dish roasts to a crisp at high heat.  While it cooks the perfume of cardamom and garlic infuses the kitchen.  You can find green cardamom pods at any good spice purveyor and [far less expensively] at Indian and Middle Eastern groceries.  (Here in Burlington you can get it inexpensively in the bulk section at City Market).  please don't use ground cardamom - you need the crunch of the tiny seeds, which are more intensely flavored.  Similarly, if if you can get intensely flavored wild Greek oregano [found hanging upside down in bunches in some Greek markets], use it here.  Be sure to leave time for the marinating - at least 4 hours.  If you like, make a batch of rice to soak up the fragrant juices.

1/4 cup whole green cardamom pods or 1 to 2 Tbsp whole black cardamom seeds out of the pods
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh or dry oregano
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 large skin on, bone in pastured chicken thighs
freshly ground black pepper

Select a shallow pan that will hold the thighs closely in one layer, such as a quarter sheet pan, cast iron lasagna pan or frying pan or gratin dish.

Using a mortar and pestle, or a heavy resealable bag and the back of a cast iron pan, pound the cardamom pods until they split.  (When I tried to use a mortar and pestle the pods kept leaping out of the mortar without breaking and I try not to use plastic bags just because I don't want more work.  So I resorted to peeling all the pods by hand.  Effective, but time consuming.  If you are more coordinated than I am use a mortar and pestle.  Although I would guess it would work fine if you just put a few in at a time.)

Discard the husks, and bruise the tiny black seeds by pounding them  a little to to release their oils. (More operator error with my mortar and pestle technique so I ended up skipping this step to prevent the seeds flying to all corners of my kitchen.  I am sure it would taste better with the seeds bruised but it was delicious without this step as well.)  Add the garlic, salt and oregano and bash away a bit more to make a rough paste.  (I chopped the garlic fine and then mashed it to a paste with the side of my knife with the kosher salt before mixing all the ingredients together.  Maybe I just need a better mortar and pestle).  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then stir in the olive oil to thin the paste.

Arrange the thighs, flesh side up, in the pan and massage half the paste onto the flesh; turn them over and do the same on the skin side with the remaining paste.  Allow the meat to marinate, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours or overnight before bringing it back to room temperature.  (I have made it on nights where I did not have the time to let it marinate and it was still flavorful and delicious.  Marinating is best but don't let it stop you from making this dish).  Grind black pepper over the thighs.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees, and set a rack, a the top of the oven just under the heating element [although you are not broiling this, this exposes the skin to more heat for crispness].  When the oven is good and hot, roast the chicken for 45 minutes, turn the meat over halfway through the cooking.

When done the meat should be beautifully crisp and the flesh completely cooked through.  pour off the fat in the pan and arrange the pieces on a serving platter.  Serve warm or at room temperature with rice.

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