The Benefits of Prison {skillet chicken with olives}

I’ve never actually been to prison. I’ve been near a prison and know that I only live about 4 miles away from one, but I can imagine that if you really do it right, you can get out of there having achieved some goals. Let’s take two stellar examples: Andy Dufresne and Martha Stewart. One fake, one real – both equally motivated, I presume, to better themselves in the clink. Andy not only honed his accounting and carving skills but also helped ventilate his cell for the next inmate. Martha – on the other hand – while less-documented, must have had some time to brainstorm about new crafts, unique gift-wrapping ideas and of course, a recipe or two.

I imagine that she came up with this one after daydreaming about breaking out of the slammer with nothing but a cast-iron skillet, a small blade, a length of rope and a Whole Foods.

Survivalist. She’s the Bear Grylls of Connecticut – slashing her way through an entire chicken, desperately foraging for fingerling potatoes and a bubbling wellspring of chicken stock not unlike that which Jacob so cherished on Lost. Can she weave a shelter out of palm fronds? Probably not. Can she finish a pan sauce with the whisk of a whisk? Absolutely.

And if she can do all of this after a hard day of insider trading, then I certainly could make magic on a Monday myself. And so can you. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • cast iron skillet
  • 2 1/4 lb. (or about 6) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 12 oz. fingerling potatoes (or new potatoes – whatever is rolling around on your counter at the time)
  • 5 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup green olives (with pits)
  • 1 small lemon, cut into wedges
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450°. Then start getting excited because this shit is delicious. Our dog almost seized after dinner anticipating the bites that could come her way.

Before you get cooking, go ahead and wash and cut your potatoes into reasonable-sized pieces if they’re too big. Peel your garlic, cut your lemon, arrange your thyme and salt and pepper your chicken. Or as Homer would say to Bart, “butter your bacon… now bacon your sausage!”

Heat your cast iron skillet over medium high heat. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet (yankee), then I suppose you could use a dutch oven or another deep skillet of some sort. Add the olive oil to your hot pan and brown the chicken, skin side down, for about five minutes.

Flip your chicken over and add one cup of the chicken stock and all of the potatoes, olives, garlic, thyme and lemon. Just snuggle them all in. Bring the stock to a boil.

Now put it in your preheated oven and kick back for about 30-45 minutes until it looks like this:

Your kitchen should smell amazing by now and your pug should be sufficiently worked into a frenzy. Pull out the skillet and take all the big stuff (chicken, potatoes) out and platter them up. Put the skillet back on the stove and bring the burner up to high heat. Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock off to the side (whisk it thoroughly) and then add that into the stock on the stove. Let that come to a boil and cook until reduced and thickened – about 3-4 minutes.

As you plate up the chicken and spoon the sauce on top, be thankful for your freedom but also hopeful that should you ever be incarcerated, that you, too, can finally achieve your goals.