Thursday, August 11, 2011

Winner, Winner, Cheap and Easy Chicken Dinner

For my first real foray back into the kitchen since, oh, June, I opted to keep it simple (as in no turning the oven on, and taking under 45 minutes) and cheap. Gentle reader, although I emerged unscathed from the recent stock market dive (after freelancing for 10 years, I didn’t have any retirement investments in the first place—jealous?!), months of lunching on overpriced so-called “paninis” in midtown have taken their toll on my wallet.

So, I went to Met Foods and bought a package of 5 chicken legs (thigh + drumstick) on sale for $1.49/lb., a yam on sale for 99¢/lb., and a handful of green beans…I forget their cost per pound, but the total came to $3.13. Plus, I knew I would have enough chicken left over for a sandwich for lunch, so I stopped at Brooklyn Victory Garden to buy a small baguette—half off, at 75¢, since it was after 8:30pm—and have a cheese sample as an amuse bouche. Kitty keeping it classy!

This whole meal took like 45 minutes from start to finish—of which only the first 10, the last 5, and a couple in between involved prep work. It is kind of a light August spin on hearty autumn-ish fare, but since the chicken cooks in the toaster oven and the yam on the stove, it doesn’t heat up your apartment. (You could of course do it in the oven as well.) Plus, it was a low-maintenance but wholly satisfying and balanced dinner for one that didn’t entail buying excess.

When I got home, I employed maximum time management and prioritizing skills. In this order, I:

  • Unscrewed a $5.99 bottle of white wine and poured it over a rocks glass full of ice (the more diluted this swill is, the better).
  • Lined a toaster-oven-sized broiler pan with foil, turning the corners up to make the foil more bowl-like.
  • Put a couple pats of butter on the foil.
  • Turned the toaster oven to 400° and put the pan inside until the butter melted.
  • Tossed the chicken in the foil with the butter and a sprinkling of coarse salt, pepper, and paprika; arranged it on the pan skin side up; flattened the corners of the foil; and returned the pan to the toaster oven.
  • Set a small pot of salted water to boil; trimmed the yam (peel it if you like, but the skin is nutritious), chopped it into wedges, and tossed it in the pot; covered the pot.
  • Trimmed the stubby ends off the green beans.
  • Sliced two pats of butter into a ramekin; chopped a few cloves of garlic, scattered it over the butter, and placed the ramekin on top of the toaster oven.
  • Removed the lid from the yam pan once the water boiled.
  • Refilled my wine glass and went to watch TV for like 15 minutes (again, I had been in the kitchen for like 10).
  • Flipped the chicken with a fork, refilled my wine glass, and went back to watch TV. (I said, it was a small glass and there was a lot of ice in it!)
  • Once a fork easily went through the softened yam pieces (about 30 minutes from when the water first boiled), removed them with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl.
  • Dropped the green beans into what remained of the boiling water, and covered the pan.
  • Flipped the chicken back to skin side up (peeling back the foil carefully so the skin didn’t tear).
  • Poured the garlic butter over the yam (don’t worry if the garlic takes on a weird bluish tinge—or just strain it out of the butter if it skeeves you out), shaved on some Parmesan, added coarse salt and pepper, and mashed with a potato masher.
  • Drained the green beans (after they had cooked for like 2 minutes).
  • Removed the chicken pan from the T.O., put 3 pieces on a plate, tossed the green beans in the chicken drippings on the foil, and put the sides on the plate.
  • Refilled my wine glass, took a picture of the completed plate and emailed it to myself, and went back to eat and watch TV. (Tonight was the first time I’ve watched Project Runway in like two seasons, and all I have to say is, if Kim Kardashian says your look is “not costumey,” you might want to consider that.)

This meal is not only cheap and quick to prepare, it’s pretty healthy, especially if you go easy on the butter in the yams and/or skip tossing the beans in the foil. (You could also try this trick with removing the chicken skin, though that adds another 5 minutes to the process.)

Oh yeah, and also, it was delicious. But the best part was: I got dinner plus the main components of lunch for under $4 (not to mention a free amuse bouche). Though this chicken dinner may not have been Charlie Sheen’s idea of winning, I felt pretty triumphant.


  1. "Amuse bouche". Nice. Thank you, Not Rachel Ray.

  2. great post, kitty. i could almost taste the crispy skin.