Most of the dinner parties in my circle of friends happen at my house because I have the best house for such events – even if I have no dining room table. Here is how a normal dinner party goes down at my house. Usually my friends and I chat via email and arrange to each bring something. Someone brings a salad, sometimes an appetizer always wine and we usually each bring a little something for the main. This works because it is usually a thrown together pasta or sometimes a homemade pizza. There are always at least three people in the kitchen, timing never works perfectly and we always fill up on bread before dinner, but it is always a good time. Really the key thing to note is that I do not play host – and really don’t even try to. I like that people make themselves at home and have always been too afraid that if I try and host I will pull a Bridget Jones and make blue soup.
So, last Friday I had a friend in from out of town and had invited her over in a casual way for “dinner on Friday”. Well on Wednesday I got a phone call from her and she wanted to know, how it would work, what she would bring, would we shop together and what time, etc. Well, I hadn’t even thought about it. Not to mention planned it to the point where I could suggest something for her to contribute. But she is a planner, in the sweetest of ways of course, but a planner none the less. Backed into a corner I did what anyone faced with a hard decision would do – said I would take care of it. I told her to bring a bottle of wine and I would do the rest.
So on Thursday night I was seriously fretting. I knew that if I tried something too elaborate I would screw it up because of distractions. So I was sitting surrounded by my cookbooks attempting to get ideas when I came across a fabulous recipe that I had bookmarked in The Barefoot Contessa for Indonesian Chicken. The best part was that you could put it straight into the oven from the fridge after marinating. Perfect, so then I hit the Joy of Cooking looking for a rice dish to go with it and came up with coconut rice – also really easy. I woke up early enough the next morning to go and buy a pack of chicken thighs and everything else I needed for the dinner, set it all up to marinate and went to work.
All day in many, many meetings I kept thinking about my chicken and I had the most satisfying prepared feeling. After work all I had to do was wash the veggies for a salad and put them in a salad bowl. When my friends arrived I stuck the chicken in the oven and put the timer on for the rice. It was the easiest party ever – no one had to fuss over the dinner and I only got up twice while the chicken was baking – once to put on the rice and flip the chicken and then again to turn the rice down. When it was all done I tossed the salad in some simple lemon juice, chopped up the prepped cilantro and garnished the dish.
Did I mention how fabulous it was? Oh yeah, it was really good! So good in fact that I made it all again tonight for Valentines knowing I wouldn’t want to be tied to the stove. This time I modified the chicken recipe a bit by decreasing the honey and adding chillis and cilantro. I would recommend using a bunch of the same kind of chicken pieces rather then a whole chicken because they will cook at the same rate – I am a fan of the thighs myself.
Indonesian Chicken(serves 2-4)
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
1. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup combine ginger, garlic, honey and soy sauce. Heat in the microwave until honey melts. (About 45 seconds on medium.) Stir to combine.
2. In a shallow baking pan arrange chicken skin side down and pour sauce over top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Put chicken straight in oven from fridge. Cook for 20 minutes.
4. Raise temperature to 375F, turn chicken skin side up and uncover. Bake for another 20 minutes to get nice and brown. Check after 10 minutes – if it is starting to get too brown baste it.
5. Check chicken to make sure it is cooked (a thigh should be at 180F). Sprinkle two-thirds of cilantro on top and cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
6. Serve garnished with remaining cilantro with rice. Spoon extra sauce on top.