julia child’s sautéed chicken

I love watching old Julia Child tv. One of the many reasons I don’t have cable is because between digital rabbit ears, streaming Netflix, and Redbox, I seldom want for things to watch. My digital antenna offers me three local PBS stations, one of which is all Create, all the time, so I have plenty of opportunities to watch Julia work her magic.

One of the things about her that has inspired me the most, especially in this blog, is how she approached kitchen mishaps. I’ve seen her turn out an apple tarte tatin, only to find that some of the apples stuck to the skillet. She plucks them from the pan not at all gingerly, arranges them on the cake about where they should go, and serves the dessert with a flourish. When she trusses a chicken, she messily manhandles that poor bird until it submits to her will. There is no “action cam” to distract from the cooking in her shows, unlike in so many others. She demonstrates that real cooking is messy and will get your hands dirty, and can be fraught with peril, but shows how rewarding it is when the roasted chicken comes out just right, when the tarte tatin is sliced and served.

With only two people in my house, serving a whole roast chicken on a regular basis is just not going to happen. I could use the leftovers to make stock, but I won’t. I could slice leftover breast meat to put on nachos or in risotto, but I seldom do. Instead of “saving” (read: wasting) leftovers, I adapted the method she uses to sauté the pieces of a whole fryer chicken to work with a meal for two, and the results never fail to astonish me. Served alongside roasted potatoes and some sort of green, it’s a simple, no-fuss weeknight meal with a touch of fancy to it.

Incidentally, if you’ve never watched Julia cook, I highly recommend it. She’s dry and hilarious, messy as can be, and a real pleasure to watch. And you just might learn something.

Julia Child’s Sautéed Chicken
Adapted from the insert to The Way to Cook DVD
Serves 2, but is easily expanded to serve more
Seasoning suggestions: I’ve had a lot of success with a basic herbs de provence mix. An Italian seasoning mix is also nice, as is chicken fajita seasoning if you’d like a South of the border taste. Salt and pepper alone work wonders and keep it simple, but feel free to experiment and see what you like.

You will need:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2-3 chicken thighs, depending on the appetites in your house
Salt and pepper
Your choice of seasoning

Heat the oil and butter in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat until the oil shimmers and the butter is completely melted.

Wash and dry the chicken thighs, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the thighs, skin side down, in the skillet and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. (The pan-shaking keeps the chicken from sticking.) Flip the chicken and cook, shaking again, another 5 minutes. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more.

Use Julia’s method to check for doneness: When you press the thickest part of the thigh with your finger, it should be tender. Also, if you prick the thigh with a fork, the juices should run clear.

Plate and serve immediately.

Image via Amazon.

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