When I am deep in work, there's this severely annoying thing that happens around 5:30 p.m.: I realize I have absolutely no idea what the plan for dinner is. I haven't shopped. I haven't prepped. I certainly haven't heated the oven. And the amount of work that I know will go into getting dinner for two on the table feels like more than I can bear.
But if I'm honest, I know it doesn't have to be that hard. After all, I have a cast-iron pan. The Holy Grail of cookware. The simplest and yet most useful pan I've ever owned. Cooking with it is not only a great way to get extra iron into your diet (truly—it seeps into the food and is very good for you), it also produces gorgeously browned, crisped food. It's a great place for the Maillard reaction to play out.
If you don't have a cast-iron pan, I recommend getting one immediately. When you get it, keep it clean, but don't wash it down with soap. Oil it lightly before storing. Use it often, but treat it gently. Love it and it will love you back. Hard.
Oh, and make this chicken. Especially when you feel overwhelmed by deadlines, pressure, and the world at large. Because at the end of the day (literally and figuratively), there is nothing better than a dinner that takes just minutes of hands-on effort, is healthy, and tastes like it was made with love.
I love making this with sweet potatoes (because if you know me, you know I love a sweet potato), but it would also be great with regular potatoes, cubed, peeled butternut squash, or even chunks of eggplant.
Extra-virgin olive oil pantry
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces (leave the peel on) $2
1/2 medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces $0.50
6-8 whole cloves garlic pantry
2 whole chicken legs $3.50
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper pantry
6-8 cherry peppers, halved optional
chopped parsley, for garnish optional
Estimated total cost of ingredients: $6
Heat the oven to 475 F.
Lightly coat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (or another heavy-bottomed, oven-proof frying pan) with olive oil.
In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, onion, and garlic cloves.
Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well to coat.
Place the chicken legs skin side up on the oiled pan.
Arrange the vegetables around the chicken, making sure the chicken is mostly exposed.
Top the vegetables with the halved cherry peppers, if using.
Sprinkle the chicken and vegetables with the salt and pepper.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the chicken skin is golden brown and crispy.
Let rest for 2-3 minutes, then garnish with parsley, if using. Serve hot.
Recipe serves 2.