I love to cook; the act of taking raw ingredients that are unrelated to each other, then turning them into something that is amazing, is exceptionally satisfying. Coding is constantly difficult, and constantly frustrating, so I’ve started “stress cooking” – taking breaks and cooking things just to feel like I know how to do something, because most of the time, I feel like I’m completely lost.
Going to a grocery store is thus risky for me, because I walk down the aisles and see scores of possible dishes. Grocery stores in the UK are amazing places; they are full of raw ingredients, full of potential, full of ideas, full of things that make you think “that would be good with…” and soon I’m getting a basket from near the door, then a cart. Yesterday, when Alice asked me to get some salad greens for dinner, I entered Tesco with the best intention of buying one bag of salad and then walking out. I ended up wandering around the grocery store for ten minutes; I saw some chicken thighs on sale, and then dijon mustard, and then…
I wanted to roast the chicken, but I had a bunch of things to do, all of which would take time. Walking back to our flat, I decided to challenge myself to do all of the labor for cooking in ten minutes.
Michael Ruhlman’s excellent book Twenty lists “thinking” as one of the most important things you can do in the kitchen, so on the walk back, I thought through all of my steps to minimize my time in the kitchen. This came in just under ten minutes of actual work; the cooking took longer, but if you’re constantly doing things, cooking really doesn’t need to take all that much time. Then you can go off and…drink IPA. Do sun salutes. Play guitar. Forget all of the important things you wanted to do that inspired you to take up a ten minute chicken challenge in the first place, because you’re so happy to put a meal together.
- Four chicken thighs. Why are chicken thighs so cheap, by the way? They’re delicious!
- One leek
- Five cloves of garlic, mashed up
- Two pinches of salt
- A bottle of IPA (you’ll only use a little bit, but you shouldn’t let it go to waste, so get the good stuff)
- Dijon mustard
- Two sprigs of rosemary
- Five organic potatoes
- Chopping board
- Mason jar
- Cast iron skillet
- Instant Pot
Heat the oven to 200º
Heat a pad of butter in the skillet on medium-high
Place the chicken thighs skin-side down in the hot butter for four minutes or so, until the skin is browned. Then, flip them over.
While they are cooking, mix some of the IPA – like, 1/5 of a bottle – with the salt, mustard, diced garlic and rosemary in the mason jar. Set it to the side.
Slice the leek into 1cm pieces and wash all the dirt from between the leaves.
When the chicken is browned on both sides, scatter the leek pieces between the thighs, letting them cook in the fat and butter a bit, then mix up the sauce and pour it over everything. Put the skillet in the oven. Set a timer for ten minutes.
Cut the potatoes into small chunks or slices, and put them in the Instant Pot with a big pad of butter and a bit of IPA and parsley, and salt if you can remember. I usually forget. Cook on the manual setting for five minutes. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, then make mashed potatoes a different way.
Finish the rest of the IPA.
Check the chicken every ten minutes or so, and baste the chicken with the sauce. The IPA should boil off and mix with everything else. I ended up cooking it for 30 minutes, because I wanted it really browned and the leeks really tender.
While it’s cooking, think about adding parsnips next time, or carrots, or celery, or anything else, really. Ooh – lardons instead of butter? Unsmoked, of course. Do they even make smoked lardons? Or maybe replace the leeks with onions, or shallots. Roast the potatoes with more rosemary and garlic. Use lamb instead of chicken. Or stew beef. Use a stout instead of the IPA, or wine. Add mushrooms! Remember that you thought of using raisins before, and didn’t, for some reason. Prunes would be good, though – prunes and port? Maybe add some fish sauce? Or some vinegar? If you use wine in a dish, does it go particularly well when paired with the food – like, would a Malbec reduced in a beef stew go well served alongside it?
This recipe is infinitely malleable. Do with it what you will. Just don’t spend more than ten minutes preparing it, and don’t let the IPA, wine, port, or whatever else you use go to waste.