Fowl ball

I am the designated complainer in our house, and I have often asserted that complaining pays. But never has my squeaky wheel received this kind of grease.

When The Hub and I arrived at the light blue House of Dean recently to see the Tar Heels play, we hiked to our seats to discover that mine was covered in dried, sticky Coke that someone had spilled while leaving the previous game.

For the record, let me state that I don’t care where our seats are as long as they’re inside the building, and that I’m grateful to generous friends who allow us to share their tickets. Let me also state that, yes, I am a Tar Heel and bleed light blue and if you don’t, you shouldn’t come near my house next Wednesday to see what colorful rodent names I call Coach K.

So, sitting on plastic seats tacky with dried Coke was too much. I went down to the usher and complained. Minutes passed. Tipoff approached. A guy arrived with a dry towel, no cleaner and disappeared. I went back to the usher who issued another summons. Two minutes until tipoff, someone arrived with a mop. Not exactly the right tool.

Then The Hub and I saw the usher gesture to us.  “Just sit here,” he said, pointing to two cushioned seats in the high-rent zone, about eight rows closer and not fragrant of aged Coke.

“I could get used to this,” The Hub said, settling in. “Feel free to thank me now,” I replied.

We could see the players’ faces. And the seats were next to the helpful usher, who happened to be a food fan. We discussed recipes during halftime (oh, you bet we stayed for the entire game; the seats’ owners never showed). He told me about a recipe for chicken that he got when he worked as a waiter in a Greek diner. He liked it so much and asked the cook to make it so many times that the cook finally ordered him to come to the kitchen and learn to make it himself.

Here’s my version, based on the list of ingredients the usher gave me, plus my addition of potatoes. I’ve found out that it’s a fairly typical Greek recipe. Some people marinate the chicken overnight, some don’t marinate at all. Either way, this dish produces an exquisite perfume as it roasts. Smells like victory to me.

Greek Chicken from the Usher

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons Greek oregano (it tastes sweeter and is more fragrant than Italian; try it)

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4-6 pieces chicken, bone in (use quarters, thighs, breasts as you prefer, but do not use boneless)

4-6 Yukon gold potatoes

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, chicken broth, lemon juice, Greek oregano, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in the garlic. Place the chicken in a large bowl and pour the mixture over it, covering all the pieces. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Cut the potatoes into wedges (no need to peel them). Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place the pieces in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Arrange the potatoes around the chicken pieces. Pour in about 1 cup of the marinade or enough to just coat the bottom of the pan (don’t use all of it). Roast, uncovered, for about 1 hour or until the chicken is completely cooked through and golden, and the potatoes are browned.


Lemon and garlic – what’s not to like?

Soup, soup, soup. Everyone talks about soup in the winter. But I need something to chew on once in a while. I purchased a package of chicken thighs with the intention of preparing one of my old reliable recipes on Sunday. We all have them – those recipes that pop up regularly because they’re easy to make while one’s attention is on something else (like the NFL playoffs), their ingredients can be kept on hand and they fill a comfort-food spot.

As I pulled out the chicken, I decided I would not fall back on the crutch of the old reliable. But I didn’t want to make another trip to the store. I had lemon, olive oil and garlic, and a Greek vibe.

I adapted a recipe from a Mediterranean cookbook to use chicken parts instead of the prescribed whole chicken. An hour an a fragrant kitchen later, I had a dish that might become a new reliable.

Chicken with Oregano and Lemon (adapted from “Taverna” by Joyce Goldstein)

10 chicken thighs

5-6 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into similarly sized wedges

1 lemon, cut into chunks

6-8 cloves garlic, sliced in half

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried marjoram (or more oregano)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth (you could use water if necessary)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken and potatoes in a large shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle on the chunks of lemon and sliced garlic.

In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 tablespoon each of the oregano and marjoram, and the salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 2 or 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from heat.

Pour the chicken broth over the chicken and potatoes. Drizzle the olive oil-lemon mixture over the chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle it all with the remaining 1 teaspoon each of oregano and marjoram.

Bake for about an hour, or until the chicken is done. Remove the chunks of lemon before serving.