I think we have a tendency to get overly fussy with holiday meals. Everything has to be shiny, tall and fancy–we opt for the several-course dinners culminating in hulking, centerpiece-worthy roasts that are prone to overcooking under pressure. We bravely tackle temperamental cakes or souffles–compulsively checking on them as they bake–their fragile centers threatening to collapse and take our self-confidence with ‘em.
That’s why I like serving things like spaghetti and meatballs, croque monsieur or hash when I host holiday gatherings. Casual food can still be gorgeous–a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven brimming with meat and vegetables makes for a most festive edible centerpiece. Plus, it satisfies what I consider to be the most important characteristic of holiday food: that it can be easily shared.
Case in point: chicken hash.
This makes for a beautiful, casual dinner, but you could also throw a couple fried eggs on top and serve it for brunch.
As many of you know, I’m not a huge fan of chicken breast. But I think the lean white meat works better in this dish than rich thigh meat would. I stole a technique from Ina Garten (AKA the Barefoot Contessa) by roasting the chicken breast on the bone with basil leaves tucked under the skin. This is a lovely way to cook chicken breast–the end result is moist and delicately anise-flavored. I recommend roasting a whole bunch at once and using the leftovers for chicken salad sandwiches, cobb salad, pasta, chilaquiles … you get the idear.
You may also notice that there’s no garnish on my chicken hash. That’s because I packed it up after snapping these photos and brought it to two dear friends for dinner. (It majorly improved the aroma on the bus.)
Happy Holidays, everyone. Remember to enjoy them. <3
4 split chicken breasts
10 large basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, as needed
2 bell peppers, large diced
1 large onion, large diced
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons sweet paprika, divided
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 pounds boiling (red) potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
Method: Preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the chicken on a sheet pan. With your fingers, separate the skin from the breast meat, leaving one side attached. Tuck a few basil leaves underneath the skin, and pull it over the meat to cover as much surface area as possible (to prevent it from overcooking). Repeat with the other 3.
Rub the chicken all over with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken on a sheet pan for 40 to 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 160F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast (it will continue cooking to 165 once you pull it out).
When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the bones and skin and cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.
In a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium high, heat 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter. Add the bell pepper, onion, garlic, half the paprika, the red pepper flakes, thyme and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook until softened and slightly brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the veggies into a bowl and set them aside.
Wipe out the skillet. Add another tablespoon each of oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes in a single layer, the rest of the paprika and a large sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, untouched for 5 to 6 minutes to totally brown one side. Turn the heat down to medium, flip the potatoes, and repeat, until they are are well browned on all sides and cooked through. This will take about 20 minutes (You may have to do this in two batches depending on the size of the skillet, so allow extra time.)
When the potatoes are cooked, add the veggies and chicken back to the skillet. Toss and cook for a few minutes to warm everything through. Just before serving, stir in most of the scallions and parsley, reserving a few tablespoons to garnish each plate.