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July 22nd 2008

Chicken John — What I Ate For Dinner Every Monday Until I Turned 18.

This is a special post written by my father. Took him long enough.

Beginning in 1971, when Jesse was around 4 years old, until 1986, when he went off to college at NYU, I was a full-time single father. During those years, in which I regularly cooked dinner and we ate together, I perfected a rotating repertoire of dishes, some better than others. Among the best (in my opinion) was one that became known as “Chicken John.” Now Jesse would probably tell you that it was just another chicken dish, and that I was a (barely) average cook, and that might be true, but then you would have to ask yourself why he has begged me to write down the recipe for his blog. The answer? Because it was a great dish and he wants to know how to cook it himself. And to also pass it along to his readers.

That I’m going public with this recipe is risky, mainly because there may be people, once they’ve tried “Chicken John,” who will not be impressed, and this negative appraisal might then leak over to the rest of his blog. But that’s his problem. I’m just the chef.

So here it is: “Chicken John.”

1. I rarely cooked a whole chicken. I would buy 2 large breasts (around 1lb each) that I would have the butcher split, keeping the bone in; 4 wings; and two drumsticks. Don’t ask me why I buy all the pieces separately, I just do. I’m the cook; I do what I want.

Most important thing to remember: Do not buy pre-packaged chicken. Go to an upscale poultry butcher or Whole Foods. And make sure that the breasts (4 when split) weigh no more than 1/2lb (give or take a few ounces).

2. Seasonings. Salt, pepper, fine herbs, summer savory, a few bay leaves, a touch of rosemary, Paul Prudhomme poultry seasoning (if you can find it; if you can’t, no biggie), and Lawry’s seasoning salt, and mucho garlic.

3. Season chicken liberally with above ingredients. Crush enough pieces of garlic to smear over the individual pieces. Don’t skimp on garlic. Lemon juice takes the smell off your hands, so buy some while you’re at the market.
*What makes Chicken John “Chicken John” are the seasonings and garlic combo + step 5 below.

4. Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

5, Melt a stick of butter in a frying pan and baste chicken. Do this before you put the chicken in the oven and then every twenty minutes while cooking. Three times total .

Total cooking time 50 -55 minutes, depending on stove. But when the chicken is brown and the skin crusty, it’s done for me. That’s the way I like it: brown and crusty. Sometimes I…

6…turn on the broiler 5 minutes before the chicken is done. At the 50 minute mark, I then I put the chicken under the broiler for about a minute. This is optional. I do it, depending on my mood.

7. Eat the chicken. It’s good. It better be, since I made it for Jesse 5000 times, and he never complained. And if he did, who cares? Like I said, I’m the chef, and I do what I want.

8. Buy one of Jesse’s properties, so I can retire in style, instead of the .0005/word he’s paying me to write this stuff.

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