Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Smoke Alarm Chicken

I have never been able to live in a home where I didn't have to call 911 at least once, except my current home, but we haven't lived here for very long. Here are the calls:
  1. At my parents' house, I called the emergency number because our minivan started on fire in our driveway so we had to call before it set our garage and the neighbor's house on fire. No one was harmed.
  2. At my first apartment, I called 911 because there was a big fight that broke out in the parking lot next door and it sounded like someone was going to get their rear-end kicked or worse. I think one guy got punched in the face before the cops showed up.
  3. At my second apartment, I didn't actually call the cops myself, but my neighbor did because another neighbor was super drunk and was making a ruckus. My cousin and I took turns watching the action through the front door peep hole and the balcony doors. I think the drunk neighbor kicked a cop, but otherwise everyone was fine.
  4. At my third and final apartment before we got married, Smoke Alarm Chicken happened. No one was harmed.

Perfect temperature!
Last spring, my then-fiance and I decided to go for a short run while I had some chicken in the oven. I thought that I had the oven temperature low enough that nothing would happen while we were gone for about 30 minutes. Yes, I know that you're not supposed to leave the oven on and leave the house. Please don't scold me. I learned my lesson, which you will read about shortly.

Anyway, I had placed 3 chicken quarters in a lightly greased baking dish sprinkled with a seasoning of some sort (I'm pretty sure it was Penzeys Forward!). Then I placed it in the oven at 300 degrees. I figured I would need to crank it up to 400 degrees when we got back to my apartment because you need dark meat to reach an internal temperature of 170-180 degrees.

So we left to go running and on my way back, I couldn't help thinking what a dumb thing we just did. I was right. We were a half a block away when I could see all the lights on in the apartment, and I could hear sirens. Crap. Crappity Crap Crap...

My landlord met us at the door. He wasn't pleased with us, but he had also just taken nearly PERFECTLY cooked chicken out of the oven and told me to go talk to the firemen and he left. The firemen entered my apartment while my then-fiance-now-husband was in the living room fanning the smoke detector to get it to shut up.

"Ma'am, is everything OK?" Fireman #1 asked. He sniffs the air to check for smoke, I assumed, and looked around.

"Yes, we just have a really finicky smoke detector," I replied. "It sounds off if I'm boiling water." True story.

"Is that the item that was in the oven," Fireman #1 asked while pointing at the nearly PERFECTLY cooked chicken. Fireman #2 was standing behind him trying not to laugh.

"Yes, I had put the chicken in the oven while we went for a short run. I know I shouldn't have done that because of the fire danger. I'm very sorry," I tell him. Firemen #1 and #2 try to give me a stern look about leaving the oven while it was turned on, but the chuckles and remarks of "something smells good" from Fireman #3 didn't quite make them seem very angry.

After offering them a beverage or some chicken for their troubles (my then-fiance-now-husband was laughing in the other room), the firefighters politely declined saying that they had already eaten. Again, I was told to not leave the house with the oven on, and they left. I popped the chicken back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so to finish cooking. I went upstairs to apologize to my neighbors, who were very nice about the whole thing, and then we ate dinner, which was delicious.

Later that night, I called my dad with a, "You'll never guess what just happened to me!" story. After telling me that I shouldn't have left the apartment with the oven on and laughing at what happened, he said, "You should name this dish Smoke Alarm Chicken!" Thanks for the name Dad!

Last night, my husband and I decided on Smoke Alarm Chicken, broccoli and baked potato slices for dinner. This time we did not go out running or even leave the house to go to the mailbox. See? I learned my lesson.
This is what it will look like when done. New Year's resolution:
Learn better food photography.

Smoke Alarm Chicken and Baked Potato Slices:
2-3 Chicken quarters, thawed and trimmed (use more chicken if you are serving more than 2-3 people)
2-3 Russet potatoes, sliced (tips on that to come)
2 tbsp olive oil or garlic grapeseed oil
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning, divided (I couldn't find the Penzeys stuff!)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish. Trim your chicken so that most of the fat is gone, but leave the skin on because it keeps it juicy. You can remove it later, which is way easier when cooked. Place the chicken in the dish, bone-side-down. You may need a buddy/sister/parent/brother/husband/boyfriend/wife/girlfriend/neighbor for this next step. From the thigh side, pull the skin up and hold it away from the meat to have your other person sprinkle the meat with some of the seasoning. Put the skin back down to cover the meat and sprinkle a bit more seasoning on it. Sorry, I don't have a picture of this procedure, but my hands were all chicken-slimy, which is why I didn't sprinkle it myself. I don't need salmonella on my spice jars.
Seasoned chicken ready to go in the oven.

Go wash your hands thoroughly and then scrub the potatoes so you get any extra dirt off of the potato skins. The skins are good for you, so leave those on unless you can't stand them. Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch chips and place on a baking sheet.
Tip for slicing potatoes (no joke, I learned this from Tyra Banks on America's Next Top Model): If you don't have a mandolin slicer or food processor that you feel like getting out (and dirty), take a sharp knife and start slicing the potato at one end. When you get to the other end and you are running out of room to safely hold the potato without slicing off the tip of your finger, turn the end around so the small end is toward the knife and the bigger end is in your hand. Hold it with your fingers curled like a cat claw. This also works for onions or other round veggies. Remember, we don't want to have to call 911 again.
Note how I switched the direction of the potato end.
Drizzle a bit of oil over the potatoes and toss. Sprinkle with seasoning. Place both the chicken and the potatoes in the oven (chicken on the middle/low rack and the potatoes above it with space between). Bake for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are tender (you should flip the potatoes on the baking sheet about half way through) and the chicken is done. That means NO pink insides, the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 170-180 degrees.
Finished potatoes.
Remove the skin (or not if you like it) and serve with some broccoli for bright green veggie goodness (or your veggie of choice). Enjoy the chicken in peace without a visit from the fire department.

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