A simple summer meal

Two courses – I’m actually going to provide recipes this time. Salad of mixed lettuces, followed by habanero-marinated chicken thighs with parsleyed rice.

Salad of mixed lettuces:

– lettuces of your choice – here are romaine and butter lettuces
– cinnamon basil leaves – torn by hand
– fresh sage leaves
– fresh hyssop leaves

Wash and dry the lettuce and tear into bite-size chunks. Add the fresh herbs. Mix well with your hands. Make a vinaigrette by pounding a medium-sized garlic clove with a pinch of coarse salt and a grinding of fresh pepper until it is mush. Add red wine vinegar (not balsamic) and mix well. Add an equal or lesser amount of olive oil, mix well, pour on salad and toss well, serve.

Chicken thighs marinated with habanero:

– 4 good chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
– 1 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
– 1/2 Western shallot or 2 Asian shallots
– 1 fresh habanero (Scotch bonnet) chile, or more to taste
– 1 large garlic clove
– 3 tsp ghee
– 1/3 cup vermouth

Crumble the Mexican oregano into the salt in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Finely chop the shallot, and mince the habanero and the garlic. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the chicken thighs (do not rinse or dry them), and mix thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients so that the marinade covers every surface of the chicken.

(Wash your hands thoroughly after this.)

Cover bowl and place in fridge for 3 hours, removing and turning the thighs once during that time. Remove from fridge, transfer to a room-temperature bowl, and rest at room temp for about 30 minutes.

Using your hands, remove as much of the marinade as possible from the chicken – as many of the pieces of shallot, garlic and habanero as you can squeeze off – and reserve. Now pat the chicken dry thoroughly on both sides and rest on a plate.

Heat the ghee over medium heat in a heavy pot with a lid such as Le Creuset dutch oven. Add the shallot-garlic-habanero mixture and saute until shallots are soft, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the mixture and reserve, saving the oil (the easiest way to do this may be to pour the hot oil and shallot mixture through a sieve into a bowl). Pour the oil back into the pan.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the four chicken thighs. Saute for about 4 minutes on each side or until thoroughly browned. Do not worry is the skin sticks to the bottom of the pan.

Return the shallot mixture to the pan, reduce heat to lowest possible setting, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the thighs measure about 160F with a probe thermometer.

(Wash your hands again thoroughly after this – you’ve been handling raw habanero.)

Remove the thighs, pour off the fat, saving as much of the shallots as you can – put those on top of the chicken. Return the pot, which should have ample pieces of caramelized meat and herbs sticking to the bottom of it, to a high flame. When hot, add the vermouth and deglaze, stirring and scraping to dislodge as much of the fond as possible. Just before the vermouth has fully evaporated, pour the contents of the pan over the chicken.

Parsleyed rice (start this about 20 minutes before chicken will be ready):

– 2/3 cup carolina or similar long-grain rice
– 1 1/3 cup water
– generous pinch of salt
– about 3-4 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Combine rice, water and salt in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Stir well with wooden spoon or paddle. Bring to a boil, stir again with wooden spoon, and cover with lid (place aluminum foil between pot and lid for extra tight seal if necessary), reduce heat to minimum, and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit, covered and undisturbed, for another 2 minutes. Remove lid, add parsley, and fluff well with wooden spoon to aerate rice and mix in the parsley.

Serve rice and chicken on same plate with ample amounts of drippings and shallot mixture, as well as lemon wedges and freshly ground pepper