With both of my parents having birthdays in November, we’ve always enjoyed a ‘joint birthday’ hot pot dinner in the middle of the month. While I actually don’t remember where this tradition started, it sure has became a marker of the transition from fall to winter.
Each year we would laboriously cut pounds of chicken, pork, and flank steak into bite sized chunks. The table was filled with these platters of raw meat along with multiple electric hot pots of warm stock, excavated from the basement in preparation for this night. Over the course of the evening, we would enjoy one of our slowest meals of the year as we selected and then cooked individual pieces of meat on our color coded skewers. Side dishes of fried rice and Chinese broccoli also filled the table along with a lazy Susan covered with every dipping sauce we could think of! Crispy bokchoy and water chestnuts were thrown into the meaty broth to make a uniquely flavorful soup that rounded out the end of the meal.
We had our last official ‘birthday dinner’ in 2013. My mother was the gatherer of our family. She was our caretaker and knew what each of us needed before we knew it ourselves. She held our traditions and did whatever it took to keep them alive and flourishing – even as my brother and I entered our 20s and 30s. After Mom passed it has taken some time to figure out how to celebrate and enjoy birthday dinner without her at the table.
This weekend we took a leap and some risks and gathered for a birthday dinner once again! While it was not our traditional hot pot, we experimented with some new dishes and hosted everyone in our new home. I’d been in a bit of a funk recently, and this weekend provided me with rejuvenating energy. We laughed, we played board games, we drank yummy wine, and we were together. What more could we ask for as winter arrives. I have a hunch that this is a tradition that will be maintained for years to come.
As for this chicken, it was recommended by a friend who noted “all you have to do is throw together the ingredients then put it into the oven and enjoy your company while it cooks!” He was pretty accurate, and the final product was a hit around the table! The recipe of from NYT is noted both here and here. The hubs (who actually prepared it) followed it closely and so I document here it here with almost no changes.
- 4 bone in skin on chicken leg & thighs
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons Herbes de Provence
- 1 lemon – quartered
- 15 cloves of garlic – peeled
- 4-6 shallots – peeled and cut in half
- 1/3 cup dry vermouth
- 4 sprigs of thyme for serving
Steps and Notes:
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees
- Place the flour in a shallow bowl
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper then dredge the chicken in the flour.
- Note: Shake off the excess flour so that only a light coating remains
- In a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven, add some olive oil to coat the bottom fully. Then, add the chicken. Sprinkle the herbes de Provence evenly and then arrange the lemon , garlic, and shallots evenly. Lastly, add the vermouth.
- Put the cast iron into the oven for about 30 minutes. Then, baste with the juices and roast for another 25 to 30 minutes.
- Note: Keep an eye on this at the end and rove it once the skin is crisp and meat is cooked through
- Before serving, inject some of the juices into the chicken meat.
- Note: This was our idea! The meat was already quite juicy, but this step didn’t hurt.
- Garnish with thyme.
Thoughts for Next Time:
- Serve with crusty bread or rolls to enjoy the roasted garlic in particular
- We also served with roasted root vegetables
- I had hoped there was a bit more broth so I might add stock or deglaze the pan and make a gravy out of the roasted bits