Sunday, January 1, 2012

I predict you will like...Chicken Thighs a la Thomas Keller

I wrote in my last post that I wasn't into New Years resolutions.  Well, I guess that is a bit of a lie, because this year I am resolving to stick to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet except for the 'treats' I bake and feature on this blog--not for weight loss, but because I feel so much healthier and stronger eating green, non-starchy veggies (yep, cutting back on the sweet potatoes and apples has made a difference with my blood sugar) and unprocessed meat and dairy. The fact I can eat more and not gain weight is also a bonus.

I can say unequivocally that I am not going to make any New Year's predictions.  The most recent prediction I heard is that late in 2012, a terrible meteorological event will devastate our  world. Now, I have no doubt this prediction will sadly come true--but given that this prediction 'hits' around hurricane and snow season (no pun intended), it seems pretty safe.  I'm not giving up my home owner's insurance, in other words in defiance of the words of this prediction, but I don't think if it occurs that it proves the value of the science of prognostication.

I remember my first experience with fortune-telling. In addition to reading dorky horse books and craft books while the other kids in my elementary school library were looking at the pictures of the human anatomy in the 'science' section, I discovered a series of purple and gray-colored books that were on astrology.  (Now, I don't believe in censoring any books from the school library, but I do wonder, given the lack of funding for said library, why astrology was high on the list of books to buy for my school).

One astrology book was labeled Sagittarius, one Libra, and so forth, and each detailed the personality traits of the sign.  I discovered that my 'star sign' was Cancer.  The Crab.

As if that wasn't bad enough, when I read the description of my 'star-derived' personality, I learned that I was supposed to be moody, broody, domestic, and ultra-feminine. Kind of like Meg from Little Women.  And who the fuck wants to be Meg? Some people want to be Jo, others Amy.  Maybe if you're really morbid, Beth.  No one wants to be Meg.

As other kids discovered the books, I began to realize something--the people who adored astrology had the 'cool' signs. Leos love astrology.  So do Aries, the most fiery and impetuous sign of the Zodiac. Some Libras like to use astrology as defense for control-freak tendencies (and all of us have said tendencies, in some facet of our lives). Geminis are the sexy, two-faced star signs so of course, they too proudly proclaim how "there is something to it, because the predictions in the newspaper are SO ACCURATE." This attitude always makes me think of a famous psychology experiment, which finds that virtually every test taker will rate a vague personality 'assessment' as incredibly accurate, even if the same assessment is given to each test subject.

I later wrote the astrology section for my high school newspaper, and people would approach me all of the time, saying how accurate my words seemed to them. I was pretty open about the fact that I wrote for entertainment's sake, although I was unbiased enough not to give my own sign a particularly salutary fortune.

I prefer to think of myself as being born under the sign of Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams, both of whom share my birthday, and neither of whom are conventionally domestic. And I no longer make predictions, real or otherwise. 

Well, except for one.  I don't eat enormous portions of meat, still (I am a 'fill up the plate with veggies' gal, still) so when I do, I like the preparation to be simple.  When I saw the reviews for Thomas Keller's simple roast chicken recipe online, I couldn't believe that something so easy could be rated so highly.  But this is, after all, the chef at the French Laundry, one of the world's greatest restaurants.

I didn't roast a whole chicken, merely thighs (my favorite cut of chicken) but I can attest to the tastiness of the high-heat method

Chicken Thighs a la Thomas Keller.


One pound or more of organic chicken thighs
Coarse sea salt and pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs, butter, brown mustard (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 450F.  Cover the chicken, skin side up with plenty of salt, top lightly with pepper (I used paprika, since I had no black pepper on hand).  Roast for approximately one hour, until the juices run clear or the meat thermometer reads above a 'safe' temperature of 165F internally.

Keller suggests slathering the chicken with butter and garnishing it with thyme leaves to serve, and using brown mustard as a condiment.  I did use the fresh thyme springs, but eschewed the butter and mustard. The thighs still had a nice crispy, almost glassy surface texture.

Note: My smoke alarm went off while making this recipe, as did the smoke alarm of virtually every commentator on the online version.  Fortunately, I have a silencer button on my alarm.  If you don't, you might want think about slipping your batteries out while making this recipe.  Of course, fire safety is very important, and I am not condoning this, I am only 'observing' that you will want to, but of course you shouldn't.


  1. Whenever I roast a chicken, I use a raised rack and pour a cup of water in the bottom of the roasting pan to keep the fat from smoking. It does steam the chicken a little, but I don't notice a difference in texture when I use high heat for the last half of the cooking time.

    My one experience with fortune-telling was when I saw a psychic who predicted that when I left San Diego, I would "go north." As opposed to emigrating to Tijuana, I guess.

  2. @Flurrious--interesting! I never heard about using a 'water bath' for chickens, only for cheesecake. I would be worried about steaming the chicken, and as a diner I'm not very fond of steamed/poached anything, I must confess.

  3. I am very much a Virgo. Maybe you could start posting more low sugar treats--I'm with you--eating more high protein/ green veggie works so much better for me!

  4. @Blonde Duck--yes, it's depressing how many people including myself for which that is true--I guess the 90 percent-10 percent rule of real food to treats is necessary...sigh...