"Then he raised his own enormous palms to me, brought them up real close so I could see them properly; the hideous constellation of water-filled blisters, angry red welts from grill marks, the old scars, the raw flesh where steam or hot fat had made the skin simply roll off. "
More often than not, a series of dull red burn marks dotting a person’s forearm is a telltale sign that he or she works in a restaurant. It’s kind of like this unspoken symbol of bad-assery to have a burn mark, akin to leaving a fight with some form of battle scars as proof, except instead of battling dragons or gladiators you’re wrestling against hot cast iron pans and pits of superheated oil. While obviously one tries at all costs to avoid cuts and burns when working in the kitchen, at the same time you never try to hide the fact when it ultimately occurs. You wince at the pain, but unless it’s severe, you never make a point to cover it up, and let it naturally become the topic of conversation the next time you wear a short sleeved shirt.
I got my first serious burn mark a couple weeks ago. A hidden pocket of water from a particularly wet chicken thigh created a loud pop, sending a splash of lava hot oil to land on my right forearm. Burns suck - aside from the initial pain, they leave a lingering agony as they singe the nerves under your skin, leaving those distinct red marks, that can only be soothed by a pack of ice. The ultimate kicker though, is that the most bad ass burn I had received in my cooking career didn’t even occur at the restaurant, but instead within the confines of my home kitchen while pan-searing this miso roasted chicken. I had finally accrued a my own battle scar, even if it was ironically outside of the restaurant. Nevertheless, I rolled up my sleeves to show off my faux-symbol of pride like a new tattoo.
But don't let the preceding story deter you from making this chicken: it's savoriness makes it hard to beat, with the bright acidity of wine cutting through the rich, gelatinous, and umami-laced richness of crisp chicken skin and fatty meat. I did make an addendum to the recipe, which is to optionally air dry the chicken over night in the refrigerator, to give time for salt to penetrate the meat, but more importantly to dry out the chicken to decrease the likelihood of you receiving your own battle scar.
MISO ROASTED CHICKEN
8 chicken legs and thighs
⅓ cup of yellow miso paste
4 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of whole grain mustard
4-5 sprigs of thyme leaves
1 clove of garlic
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
for the pan sauce
½ cup of white wine
½ cup of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon of fish sauce or soy sauce
¼ cup of cream
Optional: A couple hours (or even the night before) you want to prepare this, salt your chicken, and arrange the pieces on a rack over a sheet pan. Leave uncovered in the refrigerator. This will give time for salt to penetrate the meat, but more importantly it will dry out the skin so that it will become more crisp.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium high heat with 2-3 tablespoons of a light, neutral flavored oil until shimmering. Carefully lay the chicken pieces skin side down, and pan fry until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes. Arrange the chicken on a baking rack over a sheet pan.
Meanwhile, combine the softened butter, miso paste, mustard, thyme, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor and puree into a smooth paste. (Or alternatively, feel free to mash by hand with a fork.) Brush the paste liberally over the now crisped chicken skin, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees.
While the chicken is in the oven, make the pan sauce. Deglaze the pan you used to cook the chicken with the white wine, and boil until it’s reduced by half. Add the chicken stock, and continue to reduce on high heat until reduced by half again. Add of whole grain mustard, fish sauce, butter, and cream, and continue to reduce until it reaches your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with the chicken.