You know when your significant other goes away for a few days and you think, "Party time!" And that crazy party means a) You get the bed to yourself; b) If you snore, or s/he snores, there's no one to grumble and pull the blankets away; c) the alarm clock only goes off when you want it to; d) no one says "Did you remember to...?" In our house, when I go away, my husband and teenage sons order in pizza, forget to walk the dog and leave socks on the floor. When my husband goes away, I cook with anchovies.
I love salty food. Perhaps that is because I have low blood pressure. I also love garlic and onions. Perhaps that is because I have no taste buds left, after decades of eating the spiciest food I can shovel down and smoking Marlboro Lights in college (I know, shame, shame. And I have paid the price: Though this may not be scientifically proven, I think smoking kills taste buds.) But the bottom line is that I really love and crave salt. Unfortunately, no one else in my family does, which means I have to sneak a bucket of kosher salt onto the table and dip into it after everything's been cooked and prettily presented. When my husband went out of town today, I thought about skipping dinner altogether. My kids would be happy with leftover sandwiches from the Millburn deli and handfuls of pistachios. Our dog would be content with the cup of food she always gets. I could just tuck into a glass of pinot grigio, eat some nuts and that would be that. Or I could take advantage of my husband's absence and try to be a half-way decent parent in the process: I would make something new that relied on some of the strongest and saltiest food imaginable: Anchovies, capers, garlic and lemon, with a little boneless chicken thrown in so you don't look like a salt-addicted freak.
I read about this chicken dish last week on Stacey Snacks and a few months ago in Melissa Clark's column in the NY Times. I looked at it and thought, "Six cloves of garlic and chile flakes? Yum!" You probably have all the ingredients on hand: You can use the jars of anchovies and capers that have been sitting in your pantry for months, maybe even years. You can take those boneless chicken thighs out of the freezer and defrost them for a few minutes (you can use boneless breasts too but I prefer dark meat). You don't desperately need the lemon, though it does heighten the flavors nicely at the end. Everything else: Garlic, salt, pepper, chile flakes and olive oil, you probably have. Don't worry about scaring your loved ones away with the anchovies: You mash them to bits in the pan until they become unrecognizable.
This chicken takes about half an hour to make. Once you taste it, you will be like, "Whoah, Nellie! What the hell was that? Give me some more!" And because it's so heavily salted, it will only be better tomorrow, by which point you will have tucked the jar of anchovies safely in the back of the fridge, where you can retrieve them next month and make this fabulous dish again.
Lemon Chicken, with Anchovies, Capers and Garlic
1 1/4 pounds boneless chicken thighs (about 6)
1-teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
5-6 Anchovy filets
2 tablespoons capers, drained and dried
1 large pinch chile flakes
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, set aside.
Mince garlic cloves and set aside.
In large, ovenproof skillet, heat oil. Then add 5-smashed garlic cloves, anchovies, capers and pinch of chile. Let cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break up the anchovies, until the garlic browns, and the anchovies dissolve, 3-5 minutes.
Add chicken things and cook until browned on one side, 5 to 7 minutes (it took me 7 minutes.) Flip the thighs, place pan in oven and cook for 5 to 10 minutes (it tool me 10 minutes.)
When chicken is done, transfer thighs to a plate (Careful: handle on skillet will be hot!) Place skillet back on heat and add the remaining minced garlic clove and juice of half a lemon. Cook for 30 seconds, scraping up bits on bottom of pan. Return chicken to pan and cook in sauce for another 30 seconds or so.
Transfer chicken and sauce to platter. Squeeze remaining half lemon over chicken.