Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Summer harvest means an array of sweet and spicy peppers just perfect for flavoring braised pork butt. All a good hunk of meat needs is a few aromatics, quality stock, and time to turn into tender braised shreds just askin’ to be layered into a tortilla with a squeeze of lime. (Add some raw veggies for crunch and top with fresh herbs for best results.)

Let’s take a look at what makes this chunk of meat so special!

What is Pork Butt?

My boyfriend and I received a hunk of pork labeled “pork butt” in our most recent Butcher Box. I stood over the freezer with the massive chunk of meat in my hands, staring at the sticker on the plastic as somewhere in the catalogue of my cooking knowledge, dim recollections started bubbling towards my consciousness. Somewhere, somehow, at some point along my foodie journey, I remembered that pork butt is not in fact a pig’s butt.

We’ve all had ham, right? Well isn’t ham from the hindquarters of a pig? A quick Google search confirmed this.

where does ham come from?

Boom. Confirmed. Ham = rump. So why didn’t the massive slab of meat in my hands (which looked nothing like a ham, by the way) say “ham” if it was, in fact, from a pig’s butt?

Deep in the recesses of my brain, memories continued to stir, leading me to ask:

Are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

I googled diagrams of pork cuts. Let’s just say humans have certainly figured out how to get the very most out of the animal.

pork cuts

There it is: Boston butt, clearly distinct from ham!

But to make matters even more confusing, continued Googling revealed that Boston butt is also sometimes called Boston shoulder. Naturally, this lead to further questioning…

are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

As you can see in this diagram from The Spruce, the Boston butt sits just above the picnic shoulder on the pig.

 

Why is the Boston Butt Called the Boston Butt?

So, if the Boston butt doesn’t come from anywhere near the animal’s rump, why is it called a “butt”?!

As is true of many mysteries, the answer is rooted in history. In colonial New England during America’s fledgling years, butchers used to pack inexpensive cuts of shoulder meat into barrels, called “butts.” Used for transporting their wares across New England, the contents of these barrels became known as “pork butts,” the name we still call some shoulder meat today.

So yes, pork butt and pork shoulder, Boston butt and Boston shoulder, are all referring to the same cut of meat.

Primal Cuts of Pork

As you saw in the second diagram above (which is not even a complete breakdown of every cut of pork), we parse out many pieces of meat from a single pig.

First, however, a butcher must make several initial cuts, called primal cuts. These are shoulder, loin, belly, and hind leg cuts.

From there, an experienced butcher will continue to cut out pieces we know and love, like spare ribs, tenderloin, and bacon.

What Makes Certain Cuts of Meat More Expensive Than Others?

There are several factors in play when determining the value of a price of meat. These include but are not limited to:

  • flavor
  • tenderness of cut
  • fat marbeling
  • animal diet
  • USDA certifications, like organic or grass-fed and finished

Another influential factor is supply and demand. For example, Bacon is rich in fat marbling, inherently tender because of its cut, and also happens to be extremely flavorful. It is also simple to prepare because of these positive characteristics. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here when I say that these are the reasons why bacon is so popular. In short, it’s truly delicious.

What this means for the market, however, is that bacon prices range from $6.99 for 16 ounces to $17.50 for the same weight. Bacon quality ranges from the cheapest money to buy to the most luxuriously-seasoned, thick-cut bacon available. Unless we collectively undergo a radical cultural shift around the cuts of meat we love, there will always be a market for bacon.

Less favorable cuts from the pig, like pig feet, can go for as little as $2.00 per pound. Typically, people purchase pig feet for traditional recipes or for dog food, but still others work to break ground on new ways to use these less sought-after cuts. (For the curious, check out Serious Eats’ recipe for crispy grilled pig feet here.)

Cultural Shifts Affect the Price of Meat

Flank steak is an example of a cut of meat that has had its reputation revamped. Years ago, flank steak was dirt cheap. Flank steak is a very lean cut on the cow that generally has little fat marbling. If handled poorly, this cut of meat can be tough and flavorless.

But when certain diet trends suggested ways of preparing the lean cut of meat, like the South Beach Diet in the mid-1990s, it gained popularity. The price of flank steak last year according to the USDA was $8.25 per pound. This month, it’s $9.16.

From this example, we can see that cuts of meat we value culturally can shift. So who knows: maybe someday we will be inviting neighbors over for grilled pig’s feet!

How to Prepare Lean Cuts of Meat

There are several things to consider when you work with a lean cut of meat. When a cut of meat has little marbling, that means it will tend towards toughness and may be low on flavor.

Fortunately, there are certain tricks you can employ in order to make the most out of your lean cut of meat. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Marinate your meat. Marinating your meat in acid or vinaigrette helps to tenderize it before the cooking process. Lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are all great bases for marinades. Don’t forget to add a little honey to balance your flavors–honey is also acidic!
  2. Use a meat mallet. Physically tenderizing your tough cuts with a meat mallet or rolling pin helps to break down thick muscle fibers.
  3. Allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking. This will help the meat to cook more evenly, especially for bone-in cuts. More control over your meat temperature means more control over moisture and overall “done-ness”.
  4. Rest your meat after you cook it. This helps restore the natural juices in the meat by allowing them to redistribute around the whole cut, rather than spilling out under your knife once you start cutting. A general rule is, rest for five minutes per inch of thickness.
  5. Cook lean cuts low and slow. Slow-roasting lean cuts can reduce the risk of “shocking” the meat or causing unnecessary loss of moisture. This is especially true for braising, during which process the meat is completely submerged in tasty cooking liquid like broth or wine.
  6. Cook meat to the right internal temperature. It may seem obvious, but overcooking your meat highlights any negative characteristics, like toughness and dryness, which can be avoided by cooking it on the rarer side.
  7. Cut against the grain. Cutting against the grain of long muscle fibers makes for tender bites that are easy to chew. You might be amazed at what a difference this simple step can make!

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Perhaps the best part about this recipe is how simple it is. The primary flavor comes from whatever peppers you have in abundance, onion, and aromatic herbs. The soft, flavorful peppers make an excellent addition to your tacos as well as the meat from the braised pork butt.

sweet and hot peppers, candle, olive oil

Brush olive oil on your peppers and broil on high until the skin is blistered. I used red bell peppers, sweet mini peppers, and spicy Fresno peppers.

braised pork butt ingredients

After your peppers are blistered, allow them to rest in their own flavorful juices while you brown the meat. No need to get fussy over peeling garlic or mincing onion–big chunks here are great!

browned pork butt

Sear your pork butt, fatty side first, and save the rendered oil! Set meat aside while you sear your onion and garlic.

seared onion and garlic in pork fat

Once you’ve browned your meat on all sides, sear the garlic and onion to flavor rendered pork fat. Settle your meat, herbs, peppers, vinegar, and stock into the dutch oven and bring to a boil.

braising pork butt

Ideally, your meat will be completely submerged. My pork butt was MASSIVE, however, and would barely fit in the dutch oven. I compensated by leaving the dutch oven covered for the entirety of the cooking process and by rotating the meat halfway through.

After about four hours have elapsed, shred the pork butt into bite-sized chunks, cutting any particularly long muscle fibers against the grain for maximum tenderness. Spoon braised pork butt and sweet peppers into warm tortillas with some fresh vegetables and herbs, and top with a squeeze of lime!

sweet pepper braised pork butt tacos

For more braised meat recipes, check out this recipe for miso-braised au jus sandwiches, or for garlic and wine-braised short ribs!

braised pork butt tacos

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Using a few choice ingredients like garlic, onion, and aromatics, this dead-simple recipe is big on flavor and low on effort!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 35 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Intuitive, Mexican, Seasonal, traditional
Servings 8 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 5-7 lb pork butt or pork shoulder, at room temperature
  • 2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, whole
  • 4-6 sweet mini peppers, whole
  • 2-6 spicy peppers of your choice (I used Fresnos)
  • 1 white onion, skinned and cut into quarters
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 6-8 cups chicken or pork broth, or enough to completely submerge the pork
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • corn tortillas, warmed
  • 2 ears raw corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • cilantro, for serving
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Instructions
 

  • Turn the broiler on high. Brush your peppers in olive oil on all sides and arrange on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast under the heat until the skin begins to blister, turning peppers as necessary so they roast evenly. This should take between 4-7 minutes per side. Once your pepper skins have blistered, place in a bowl and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 275°F. Generously season the pork on all sides with salt. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat until drops of water quickly evaporate. Add pork shoulder, fattiest side down, and sear 5-8 minutes per side, or until deeply golden brown. Turn heat to medium-low and set the browned pork butt aside.
  • Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally and sear the exposed garlic cloves in the rendered pork fat until a nice caramel color, lowering heat if necessary. Remove from heat and add the onions. Sear undisturbed until the onion quarters take on some color, about 3 minutes.
  • Add stock and vinegar to the pan, scraping up any flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the dutch oven. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. Settle the pork butt into the liquid, fat side up, and add the two halves of the seared garlic head, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover, then place in the oven for 3.5-4 hours, or until pork is falling off the shoulder bone.
  • Pull pork out of the liquid using tongs and, once it has cooled slightly, break apart using a fork or gloved hands. If necessary, cut any long muscle fibers against the grain to enhance tenderness.
  • Gently pull peppers from the cooking liquid and remove seeds and stems. If desired, roughly chop into bite sized chunks. Using tongs, place pork, peppers, corn, and cilantro into a warm tortilla and squeeze lime over the top. Serve immediately. Pork keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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Small-Batch Apricot Jam (From David Lebovitz)

As we near the end of summer, we approach the end of the growing season for stonefruit. While this is a bittersweet farewell, I rejoice in the fact that it is time to make my favorite jam of all: David Lebovitz’s small-batch apricot jam.

The last few weeks have been a race to get my hands on the dwindling supply of apricots before they are gone for good until next season. Once an apricot reaches its bright orangish, peachy glow of ripeness, it immediately begins to rot–so this extremely perishable food must be handled with some swiftness or otherwise eaten immediately.

I chose this jam recipe because of the small yield, but also because of the limited amount of sugar and the exclusion of other flavor additives. This recipe is all about letting the apricots do the talking. Apricots are a perfect fruit, in my opinion. If you agree, then this recipe is for you!

How to Eat Apricot Jam

Tart, tangy, sweet, and floral, this jam is a happy addition to:

  • buttered toast
  • flaky croissants
  • vanilla ice cream with toasted pistachios
  • full-fat yogurt
  • oatmeal or another porridge
  • glaze tarts, cobblers, pies, and cakes

Or, use it to glaze pork chops or chicken breasts, for a savory option. Throw in some rosemary, thyme, or another herb to provide some depth!

What is Noyaux?

While you process your ripe apricots, you will end up with a pile of pits next to your cutting board. These are not simply trash to be thrown away, however! If you have a nutcracker or a hammer, there’s a hidden treasure within those tough pits–the “almond” within, known as noyaux. These nutty kernels are known for their pleasant, almond-y flavor. It is customary in some places in Europe to crack open a peach or apricot pit and place the noyaux in each jam jar before canning.

But be aware: the noyaux contains a compound called amygdalin that, when mixed with water, creates a small amount of prussic acid. (Another name for prussic acid is hydrogen cyanide…yes, like the poison!)

Never fear–a person weighing 150 pounds could crunch through over two pounds of noyaux before reaching toxic levels in their body. So, unless you plan on going around crunching peach pits all day long, adding a single kernel to a jar of jam is a safe option. Adding noyaux for a flavor complexity boost can take your small-batch apricot jam to the next level!

If you are concerned about the amygdalin, roasting the noyaux at 350°F for 15-20 minutes neutralizes the toxin.

How to Use Noyaux

Other than using noyaux in stonefruit preserves, there are a number of other common applications for this hidden treasure. Perhaps the most widely practiced of these is making noyaux “almond” extract.

Known for its complex, bitter almond flavor, the simple process of making noyaux extract requires more patience than technical skill. Simply add toasted (or untoasted) kernels to your choice of alcohol in a sealed jar and wait 3 months or so before straining! Leaving the jar at room temperature will speed up the extraction process.

What’s the Difference Between Almonds and Noyaux?

The truth is, almonds are very similar to the kernels found within the pits of stone fruits. Almonds and noyaux are both drupes in the prunus family. In fact, almonds grow a greenish fruit outside their shell that looks very similar to an unripe apricot.

And yes, this does mean that almonds contain a small amount of cyanide–but not enough to cause concern. Unless you plan on eating over 50 ounces (over three pounds) of almonds in one day, you can snack without worry.

Where Can I Buy Apricots?

We are approaching the end of the stonefruit growing season, so if you are hoping to crack into a jar of apricot preserves this winter, time is of the essence!

Look at your local farmer’s market, or check out this awesome tool from LocalHarvest! Chances are, you are closer to real people growing real apricots than you might think. 🙂

How to Make Small-Batch Apricot Jam

Set aside a few hours for this process. Put on some relaxing music, and enjoy it!

First, gather your ingredients:

small-batch apricot jam ingredients
In the small bowls are equal amounts of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and amaretto liqueur.

Halve and quarter your apricots into desired sizes. I like chunky preserves, so I left some large pieces in my processed fruit. If you so desire, now is the moment to roast your noyaux, crack open the pits, and arrange in jam jars.

processed apricots and jam jars

Add water to the fruit and cook over medium heat until the fruit is heated through and begins to break down.

partially cooked jam

Add sugar and continue to simmer over medium-low heat until the mixture is reduced and passes the “wrinkle” test.

fully cooked apricot jam, lemon juice, and amaretto liqueur

Stir lemon juice and amaretto liqueur into the warm jam and ladle into sterilized jars. (To sterilize jars, completely submerge in boiling water with lids and rings for 10 minutes. Pluck jars and lids out with long grill tongs and drain on a clean towel.) Loosely screw the tops on the apricot preserves, and completely submerge in boiling water for another 10 minutes.

canning process

Work in batches if you must to ensure jars are completely submerged. Remove the jars with tongs and allow to cool to room temperature for 12 hours. You will hear the “ping” of your lids sealing to the jars–a sign of success! Press on the tops of the lids to ensure they’ve fully adhered to the jars. For lids that don’t seal, jam is best eaten within 4 weeks. Jam also freezes beautifully, so for any jars that don’t make the cut for long-term storage, feel free to transfer your jam to the freezer after it cools to room temperature!

What If I Need All My Jars to Seal?

canned small-batch apricot jam
Thanks, David Lebovitz! This bright jar of happiness will surely pull me out of the deepest of winter doldrums! <3

As you can see, the leftmost jar of the four didn’t seal. I will be devouring it over the course of the coming week, so no harm, no foul! If, however, you are banking on every single jar sealing up for long-term storage, you can always try re-boiling the jar for another 10 minutes.

It is always a good idea to sterilize more lids and jars than you think you will need. Sometimes all it takes to seal a jar is using a different lid.

Using brand new lids for your canning endeavors ensures you get a good seal on your jars every time. It’s great to reuse lids for canning projects as much as possible, but over time they do wear out. New lids are available for separate purchase at most grocery stores or online.

Is There Another Way to Sterilize My Jars?

Yes. You can also sterilize your jars in a clean oven. Set the temperature to 200°F and bake jars and lids for 20 minutes on a cookie sheet or directly on the rack.

David Lebovitz’s Small-Batch Apricot Jam

canned apricot jam

David Lebovitz's Small-Batch Apricot Jam (Low Sugar)

This delightfully simple recipe highlights and preserves all the pleasant characteristics of apricots without overwhelming with sugar.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Canning Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Seasoning, Snack, Spice
Cuisine American, Comfort Food, French, traditional
Servings 32 servings

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/4 lbs fresh apricots, pits removed and cut in quarters
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp kirsch or amaretto liqueur

Instructions
 

  • Wash the apricots, cut them in half, and remove the pits. Cut apricots into quarters if you like smaller pieces of preserved fruit. If desired, crack open the pits with a nut cracker or hammer and place one kernel in each jam jar.
  • Place a small plate in the freezer.
  • Place water and apricots in the heavy-bottomed dutch oven and cover. Cook over medium heat until apricots are cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
  • Once apricots are cooked through, remove the lid and add the sugar, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the mixture has significantly reduced, 30-45 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The jam should look fairly thick and jelly-like.
  • Retrieve the plate from the freezer and dollop a small portion of jam on it. Return the plate to the freezer and wait for 1-2 minutes. Remove the plate from the freezer again and drag your finger through the chilled jam. If it piles up and wrinkles as your finger moves through it, the jam is ready for canning. If it's not quite ready, continue to cook over medium-low heat, testing for doneness in the same fashion.
  • When the jam is reduced, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and kirsch. Ladle into sterilized jars. Screw lids on loosely and completely submerge jars in boiling water for 10 minutes, working in batches if necessary. Remove jars from boiling water and allow to cool to room temperature. You should hear a pinging sound as the jars seal. Alternatively, allow cooked jam to cool to room temperature and place in fridge or freezer. Jam placed in the freezer will keep up to 1 year. Jam placed in the freezer keeps up to 4 weeks.
  • Enjoy jam with toast, plain croissants, oats or porridge, yogurt, or ice cream.
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Simple One-Skillet Roast Chicken and Schmaltzy Potatoes

This simple one-skillet roast chicken recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners or a cozy date night. Mouthwatering chicken roasts atop layers of thinly sliced potatoes which absorb flavorful drippings from the bird as it cooks. This chicken has it all: crispy skin, juicy meat, and precious rendered schmaltz absorbed into peppery potatoes below. Best of all, it all comes together in one pan!

The secret to moist chicken? Let the bird rest for 10 minutes before carving.

At What Temperature is Roast Chicken Done?

While some chefs pull their chicken at 155°F, the standard temperature for fully cooked chicken is 165°F.

Another way to check if your chicken is done is to slice between the thigh and the breast with a knife. If the juices run clear, the bird is done. If they appear bloody or murky, the chicken needs more time in the oven.

It is not uncommon for just-cooked chicken breast to look slightly pinkish. When in doubt, use a meat thermometer to ensure you’ve reached the point at which your chicken is safe to eat.

Where Does Roast Chicken Come From?

The history of humans consuming roast chicken reaches back about as long as we’ve kept the birds in captivity. Many different cultures from across the globe have variants of roasted chicken associated with traditional cooking. Peru, Australia, France, and Germany have long-held customs of roasting chicken, whether rotisserie style or in the oven.

So…What’s Schmaltz?

Schmaltz (also spelled “shmalz” or “schmalz”) is the name referring to rendered poultry fat, typically chicken but sometimes goose or duck. Schmaltz is known for its prevalence in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine as a cooking fat and flavor enhancer.

The word “schmaltz” is derived from the German verb “schmelzen” which means “to melt.” This perhaps refers to the common means of rendering schmaltz, which is to cut chicken fat into small pieces and stir it over heat until the fat is eventually liquified. Another schmaltz-rendering process is achieved through the use of steam injection. In both processes, the rendered schmaltz is filtered, then clarified, before it is ready for use.

A Brief History of Schmaltz

While chicken fat has been flavoring our meals since we began cooking with it (as true in American culture as any other chicken-eating culture across the globe), rendered schmaltz is perhaps most rooted in Ashkenazi cuisine. This is perhaps because European Jews often experienced restrictions on land ownership and as such could not own cattle. Schmaltz became an important olive oil replacement for central and northwestern Europe where olive oil was not readily available at a widely affordable price. Schmaltz has historical roots reaching back to Ancient Israel prior to the forced Jewish exile from Roman Israel.

Because olive oil and sesame oil were not available to Jews who made their way to northwestern Europe, they turned to schmaltz, an available cooking fat approved by Kashrut.

Kashrut is a set of dietary rules prohibiting certain foods; it also dictates how certain foods should be prepared before consumption according to Jewish law. These rules expressly forbid cooking with common fats like butter, lard, and tallow–thus Jews turned to using fat rendered from chickens to cook their meals.

In contemporary Europe, overfeeding geese became common practice in schmaltz and foie gras production.

How Schmaltz is Used Today

When Jews immigrated to the United States, they brought traditions like cooking with schmaltz with them. Due to aggressive advertising by Crisco, some American Jews swapped their schmaltz for the vegetable shortening. Others swapped schmaltz for newly-available olive oil or plant-based oils.

Some doctors and nutritionists suggested the saturated fat content of schmaltz made it an unhealthy cooking oil. Coupled with a series of health movements in the United States, schmaltz lost popularity at the turn of the 20th century and could not be found in most American kitchens.

Schmaltz has since resurged in popularity as modern Jewish cooks connect to their heritage in the kitchen. Endorsements from chefs like Anthony Bourdain brought schmaltz back into the culinary limelight, causing some positive waves for the slandered cooking fat. Schmaltz remains an important “secret ingredient” and flavor booster in modern dishes like chicken pot pie and chicken and dumplings.

Feeling Schmaltz-Curious?

Want to buy schmaltz but don’t know where to look? This jar from Epic is certified organic and unbleached.

Simple One-Skillet Roast Chicken and Schmaltzy Potatoes

Whether you choose to cook with schmaltz for religious reasons or for flavor, one thing is certain: you are in for a tasty meal. Gather your ingredients and prepare for assembly in your cast iron skillet.

whole chicken, potatoes, onion, garlic, lemon, thyme, salt, pepper, chicken stock, parmesan cheese

I used two large russet potatoes (to feed two of us), but if you are cooking for four, consider using another potato or two, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup more chicken broth. Add more parmesan, salt, and pepper between potato layers, too.

potato medallions, salt, pepper, chicken broth, parmesan cheese

Season between every layer of potatoes with salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

parmesan and pepper potatoes await chicken broth and whole chicken

Once the potatoes are seasoned, add enough chicken broth to just reach the top layer of potatoes to ensure they cook thoroughly as the chicken roasts. Place your chicken atop the potatoes, breast side up.

chicken stuffed with onions, garlic, thyme, and lemon sits atop cheesy potatoes

Give your bird a little extra flavor boost with chunks of onion, sprigs of time, and wedges of lemon. Don’t forget to salt and pepper the skin, for maximum crispiness!

stuffed chicken ready for roasting!
Mmmm, just look at all that fat waiting to be rendered…those lucky potatoes!

Once you’ve rubbed salt and pepper all over your bird, it’s ready for the oven! Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, or until skin begins to brown. Lower the heat to 400 and bake another 30 minutes or so more, depending on the size of your bird.

that is one good-lookin' roast chicken

Mmmmm…crispy skin, juicy meat, schmaltzy taters…let your inner hedonist out and enjoy this meal!

roasted chicken breast, schmaltzy potatoes, green beans, love

Weeknight dinner just got a lot more fun!

that is one good-lookin' roast chicken

Simple One-Skillet Roast Chicken and Schmaltzy Potatoes

saltandstonefruit
Succulent roasted chicken stuffed with aromatics gets crispy and juicy atop a bed of cheesy, schmaltzy potato medallions.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Resting Time 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 55 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, ashkenazi, Comfort Food, Intuitive, jewish, traditional
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 1 whole chicken with plenty of fat, preferably organic
  • 1 white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 lemon, cut in half with seeds removed
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2-3 large potatoes, sliced into thin rounds (russet works, but other potatoes are delicious as well)
  • 1.5 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese (pecorino works too)
  • salt, for seasoning
  • pepper for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (water or milk work in a pinch)

Instructions
 

  • At least 30 minutes before you plan to start roasting your chicken, pull it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. (This ensures a true-to-recipe roast time as the cold bones of the chicken carcass don't inhibit the roasting process.) Dress the outside of the chicken with a generous sprinkling of salt and rub all over the skin. Crack some fresh pepper over the hen and let sit while you prepare the vegetables.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Prepare the onion, lemon, and garlic, and set aside. Cut the potatoes into thin rounds with a sharp knife or mandolin.
  • Arrange a single layer of potatoes in the bottom of a cast iron skillet. Season with a pinch of salt, a crack of black pepper (or as much as you'd like), and a bit of grated parmesan cheese. Add another layer of potatoes on top and season accordingly. Repeat with any remaining potatoes. When all of the potato rounds have been incorporated, season the top layer with salt, pepper, and the remaining cheese.
  • Pour chicken broth into the cast iron at the edge of the pan, taking care not to disturb too much of the cheese. You want the liquid to just come up to the topmost potato layer.
  • Place the chicken on the bed of potatoes, breast side up. Slide into the center rack of the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the skin begins to brown and start crisping up.
  • Turn oven down to 400°F and roast for another 30-45 minutes, or until juices from a knife stuck between the thigh and breast run clear, or the thickest part of the chicken temps at 165°F with a meat thermometer.
  • Allow chicken to rest 10 minutes before carving. Cut both breasts and thighs from the carcass, and immediately serve with the potatoes below. Keeps up to four days in the fridge.
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