Chicken and potatoes — fried together in a big skillet so they are crisp and moist at the same time — was my mother's specialty. Growing up, my brother and I demanded it every week; then my children demanded it when they were young, and now my grandchildren are the ones asking for it at my table.
Sometimes I want to add another dimension to this, and who doesn't like crispy bacon? To counter the richness of the bacon, I add a little acidity and spice, and that comes from the pickled cherry peppers. This classic is delicious either with or without my special touches.
- 4-6 ounces (5 or 6 slices) bacon
- 2½ pounds chicken pieces (use your favorites)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 pound red-skinned potatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 2 small onions, peeled and quartered lengthwise through the root end
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1-2 pickled cherry peppers, sweet or hot, cut in half and seeded (optional)
For the bacon:
Cut the bacon slices in half crosswise, and roll each strip into a neat, tight cylinder. Stick a toothpick through the roll to secure it; cut or break the toothpick so only a tiny bit sticks out (allowing the bacon to roll around and cook evenly).
For the chicken:
1. Rinse the chicken pieces, and pat them dry with paper towels. Trim off excess skin and fat. Cut the drumsticks from the thighs. If using breast halves, cut each into two small pieces. Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with half the salt.
2. Pour the canola oil into a deep skillet and set it over high heat. When the oil is very hot, lay the pieces, skin side down, an inch or so apart — watch out for oil spatters. Don't crowd the chicken. If necessary you can fry it in batches, cooking similar pieces together.
3. Drop the bacon rolls into the oil around the chicken, turning and shifting them often. Let the chicken fry in place for several minutes to brown on the underside, then turn and continue frying until the pieces are golden brown on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes or more. Fry the breast pieces for only 5 minutes or so, taking them out of the oil as soon as they are golden. Let the bacon rolls cook and get lightly crisp but not dark. Remove the chicken to a plate as it browns.
4. Pour off the frying oil once all the chicken and bacon are cooked and out of the skillet.
For the potatoes:
1. Toss the potatoes in a large bowl with the olive oil and the remaining salt.
2. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the olive oil and put all the potatoes, cut side down, in a single layer in the hot pan. Fry the potatoes for about 4 minutes to form a crust, then move them around the pan, still cut side down, until they're all brown and crisp, 7 minutes or more. Turn them over, and fry another 2 minutes to cook and crisp on their rounded skin sides.
3. Add the onion wedges, rosemary and, if using, peppers. Return the chicken pieces — except the breast pieces — to the pan, along with the bacon rolls; pour in any chicken juices that have accumulated. Raise the heat slightly, and turn the chicken, potatoes and onion (and bacon and/or pepper pieces) so they are coated with pan juices, taking care not to break the potato pieces. Spread everything out in the pan–potatoes on the bottom as much as possible, so they will keep crisping up — and cover.
4. Lower the heat to medium, and cook for about 7 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally; then uncover, and tumble everything again. Cover, and cook another 7 minutes or so, adding the breast pieces at this point. Give everything another tumble. Now cook, covered, for 10 minutes more.
5. Remove the cover, turn the pieces again, and cook in the open skillet for about 10 minutes, to evaporate the moisture and caramelize everything. Turn the pieces now and then; when they are all glistening and golden, and the potatoes are cooked through, remove the skillet from the stove, discard the rosemary sprigs, and — as I do at home — bring it right to the table.