An Affair with Oven-Barbecued Chicken

Today is Cary Grant’s birthday. I clearly recall one of the first (and most impressionable) films I ever saw him in was “An Affair to Remember.” It was a stunning remake with him starring alongside the lovely Deborah Kerr. Every time I watch it, I know exactly what happens… yet, I fall in love every. time. And I cry every. time. It’s just like my draw towards “Casablanca.” Sometimes the classics remain just that. Classic. And perfect.

Predictably, tonight I’m hunkered down on the couch with an old film and some of Cary Grant’s Oven-Barbecued Chicken. It’s a little-known fact that Grant was quite a good home cook. I’m still overcoming a recent procedure so too much activity isn’t in the cards for me which makes this recipe all the better. It’s simple and a little retro (of course!) and better yest doesn’t involve anyone lighting up the grill.

The recipe calls for a few things that have changed in the years since it was originally published. One of the most notable differences is the size of chickens then vs now. The original recipe calls for 3 chickens 1-1/2lbs a piece. Unless we’re using Cornish game hens, this size of chicken isn’t really the norm for regular cooking nowadays. Instead I grabbed a 4lb whole fryer and this substitution served my purpose without issue. If you’re not a fan of breaking down your own bird, you can always get a flat of mixed pieces to use, but these are less easy to come by.

Another substitution (rather minor alteration) I made was that I chose to use only half of the onion called for in the recipe. I have come to the conclusion that onions today are also as steroidal as the chickens. Many of my vintage recipes will call for an entire onion when half an onion will seriously be pushing it by today’s standards. In these instances, I make the adjustment without adverse effects to the final outcome. No doubt this discrepancy in size is due to advancements in farming across the decades. If you’re worried about what to do with the remaining half, I store mine in the fridge in a Tupperware Onion Keeper for later!

Finally, the last change I made was that I doubled the garlic. I think it’s worth noting that unless I’m using a notable Italian chef’s recipe, I invariably double the garlic in any recipe. There’s never enough in my opinion. Many recipes are in my experience are written for the average home cook. Playing it safe. Intentionally trended towards the blander side. Trust me, just double it. If this is too much for you, maybe just increase it by 50%. Garlic is good for you in any case. Just do it. Your taste buds will thank me later.

The chicken wasn’t sticky and crispy like one would get from barbecuing over an open flame to be sure, but it was incredibly tender and juicy nevertheless. The chicken was so tender and juicy in fact, that it was falling off the bone! Despite being simple, the barbecue sauce was unctuous and sweet. It bore all the marks of a good sauce — including being so good, we couldn’t resist licking it from our fingers. I know, I know. Not very good table manners, but oh so worth it every once in a while! The 60min was sufficient time to cook the chicken through, but if you’re unsure about whether your chicken is cooked all the way through, this simple meat thermometer from Cuisinart has proved indispensable in my kitchen!

If one was so inclined, this recipe could be easily adapted to an open flame grill. However, it’s exquisite just the way it is. It was nourishing and comforting for someone who just needs to sit and be comforted and nourished all at once.

I served our chicken with a side of RightRice Garlic Herb rice product. (Disclaimer: I was given a packet of this product to try, but this post is in no way sponsored by RightRice.) The Garlic Herb flavor complemented the chicken well, but one of the first four ingredients of the product itself is rice flour. The product tastes good, cooks like regular rice, and is touted as better for you since it’s made of a medley of vegetables; but isn’t it just better for me in general to eat a sensible portion of rice alongside a generous portion of vegetables…? It was good, but I definitely don’t see it becoming a regular staple in my pantry.

What are some of your favorite vintage recipes that you throw together on a night that too much effort is out of the question?

Currently Reading: What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool

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