Dinner for one is a thing entirely different than dinner for two. In the last two years, I’ve cooked a lot of dinners-for-one. I’ve become a pro at a legitimate meal, made quickly, efficiently, economically, with little or no waste. But for the last several months, I’ve been making a lot of dinners-for-two, and I must say, I quite like the change. It’s much more satisfying to make dinner you share with someone on a regular basis than sitting at the table alone with your dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I think that meals eaten alone are precious and to be treasured. But there’s something to be said for a quiet, simple weeknight meal you cook for just the two of you. I am liking this change.
But dinners for two are also quiet different than dinners for a crowd. Your average dinner party is not the quiet, intimate dinner full of quiet, languid moments. Dinner parties tend to be a bit more lively – with boisterous conversation, multiple bottles of wine, the host (or hostess) scurrying about to make sure all guests are tended to. It’s a job you either love or hate. I happen to revel in it, but I’m a strange creature that way.
What I’ve discovered, at least for myself, that while I love putting dinner parties together, I prefer to have not more than one complicated recipe. If I’m going to labor over something for a long period of time, something tricky and time-consuming, I like to select other dishes to be relatively stress-free. A simple summer soup that needs no cooking time; a vegetable side that’s festive, yet unfussy.
And, I think, chicken, particularly the dark meat, is especially forgiving in the low-maintenance department. Especially this chicken here. After washing and drying the drumsticks (I only had access to drumsticks after my local butcher got raided by a family throwing some kind of a crazy block party, taking nearly everything, the nerve!), you throw about some tomatoes, sliced onion, garlic cloves, and herbs into the roasting pan and then arrange the chicken in between the supporting cast. You then cook this whole mess, barely checking-in with the chicken (it can fend for itself, not to worry). This kind of chicken independence, if you will, leaves you with time to tend to some other things for dinner. It also allows you to claim some rewards – after all that slaving in the kitchen (wink, wink!). Perhaps you’ve earned yourself another piece of cake, or an extra scoop of sorbet. Even though, this is the kind of thing you live for – cooking for a crowd – it’s also about the little indulgences you allow yourself for embarking on such a journey. After all, the crazy amount of pleasure you get from cooking for dinner parties might raise eye brows with some folks – it might just sound crazy, so just keep it to yourself, ‘k?
So just sigh, pretend like you slaved over dinner, wipe your brow, and pour yourself that glass of wine, as if to lessen the burden a bit, even if it was a ridiculously fun adventure for you. “Reward” yourself for you “pains”.
1 pound cherry tomatoes in various colors
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1/2 cup brine-cured black olives, drained (pitted or un-pitted, doesn’t matter)
6 large garlic cloves, left in their peels
1 lemon, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Sprigs of rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper
3 1/2 pounds varied chicken parts like drumsticks, thighs and breasts
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
Preheat convection oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
Toss together tomatoes, onion, olives, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, rosemary, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 13×9 inch or other 3-quart shallow baking dish. Push vegetables to sides of dish to make room for chicken. Arrange the chicken in a baking dish so it has a bit of room to breathe and the pieces are not too close. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the chicken as well.
Roast for about 20 minutes and then add the water or stock to the pan. Place pan back into the oven and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of a thigh (do not touch bone) registers 170°F.
Let chicken stand 10 minutes before serving, and then serve with vegetables and pan juices.