Drumsticks with Dates

There was only one time on this blog when I focused on perfecting a single dish, Tarte Tatin. And even then I was not so much attempting to perfect a single recipe as I was exploring variations thereof. I am habitually scattered. After Tarte Tatin it seems that where cooking is concerned I want to try many things, and not try, try again the same thing.

Hence while I have been cooking the same core ingredient (chicken drumsticks--they’re cheap) over and over recently, there has been very little work involved. I just try something different every time. What I try is largely dictated by what is around: lemons one day, cherry tomatoes another, and today, dates. The beauty of these things is transient. It lies in the coalescing of an improvisation into something that tastes good, miraculously. Subtlety and discernment are out of the picture. Those finer qualities only take form and may be tasted through repetition. But these dishes, unless they are a disaster, are the best thing at the moment they’re served. Very rarely do they happen again. Yet I write recipes for them.

5 chicken drumsticks 1/2 onion 1 small carrot ~15 pitted dates juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoons cooking oil 1/2 teaspoon cloves 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon black pepper ~1 teaspoon salt

Two hours ahead of time salt both sides of chicken drumsticks--a generous pinch for each side of each drumstick--and let sit on a plate to warm to room temperature. In a small bowl pour lemon juice over pitted dates, add cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper, and mix together with a spoon. Slice onion half in half against the grain, and then chop into small pieces with the grain. Slice carrot in half lengthwise and then chop both halves into small pieces. Set oven to 450 F. Oil a small square baking pan, place onions and carrots in the pan, and put it in the oven. In a large saucepan on medium-high heat with a bit of cooking oil, quickly brown both sides of drumsticks (this should only take a couple minutes per side). Move drumsticks and date-lemon-spice mixture to baking pan, mix everything together in pan, and let it continue to bake at 450 F. After twenty minutes, flip over drumsticks, stir vegetables, add 1/2 cup water, and continue baking. When drumsticks are done and the bottom of the pan has turned to a thick sauce, it is done.

15 April 2011