Marinating is one of the greatest tricks for fast and delicious dinners. If I know I don’t have much time to cook dinner on a given day, I’ll throw some chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, vinegar and oil in the morning and stick it in the fridge until I’m ready to use it. Then, come dinner time, I pop it in the oven and it comes out 40 minutes later tasting amazing.
Sometimes though, 40 minutes is too long to wait for dinner. Marcella Hazan’s recipe for Chicken alla Diavola comes to the rescue to combine the flavor enhancing powers of marinade with the quick cooking method of broiling. Really, broiling? I have only ever used that function to blacken peppers or to melt cheese on toast (which will often end up black too). Warily, I tried it, and I was immediately converted. 4 chicken legs took 20 minutes to cook. That’s bone-in, skin-on. This means you are 20 minutes away from delicious dinner right now (assuming you skip the marinade, which, though you’re missing out, the chicken will still be moist and delicious). If that doesn’t sell you, the other perks of broiling will. The high heat from the broiler renders a ton of the fat away, so you’re left with a very thin and crisp skin. The skin is a little blackened in some places, which though fairly undesirable on cheese toast, is incredible on chicken. The burned bits give you the feeling you took the time to obtain a charcoal grill, light it, and wait for the coals to heat up without all the work.
With this discovery, marinating meat (though such a good idea) must take a backseat to broiling meat. If you don’t feel like marinating, please just chuck some chicken legs under the broiler with some salt. They will taste incredible and you can join with me in shouting the praises of broiling. I may never need to roast chicken again.
Chicken alla Diavola
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Notes: This also recipe works wonderfully with boneless chicken. I’ve tried it with boneless (though skin-on) chicken thighs and it worked beautifully, cutting the cooking down even further to 10-15 minutes. I wouldn’t try this method with skinless chicken. The high heat would probably dry it out too fast without the protective layer of skin. I would also stick with dark meat, because white meat just has a tendency to dry out. Also, bone-in, skin-on dark meat is much cheaper than white meat. And it tastes so much better. And it is vastly superior in every way.
4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks still attached) or just thighs
1 tsp black peppercorns
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
If you have an adjustable peppercorn mill, set it to a very coarse setting to crack the peppercorns. If not, leave them whole. (I have tried this recipe with both cracked peppercorns and whole ones, and though it’s definately more peppery with the former method, it’s still good with the latter)
Put the chicken in a bowl, and rub the peppercorns into it. Pour the lemon juice and olive oil over it, and let it steep for 2-3 hours (I did it for 8 and it worked well).
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the broiler for 5 minutes*. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, and place it on the broiler pan (I suggest putting the pan on the middle rack of your oven). Check after 15 minutes by cutting into the underside of the chicken, by the joint. If the juices run clear, it’s done. Mine needed a full 20 minutes, but times vary depending on the strength of your broiler.
*A quick note on broiling: some people broil with the oven door open, but I leave mine closed. My oven is really old and the door will not stay open by itself. I would suggest for this recipe to leave it closed, so the whole oven can heat up and cook the chicken quickly. That said, if you’re worried about it, check your oven manual and it will tell you if you should leave it open or shut.