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Stretch Chicken is Great!

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summary: recipe for Chicken Savoy – sans vinegar and with burnt toast crumbs, based on recipes in SAVEUR magazine Nos. 115 and 171 (November 2008 and January/February 2015); re-reading past issues of SAVEUR magazine; (click on image(s) to see more photos and larger views)

Move over Fried Chicken!

SAVEUR No.115 wp-image-2017 We have been going through past issues of SAVEUR over the past month or so. The writing and photography are significantly superior to what is in this year’s issues of SAVEUR. I do have to admit that we liked some of the articles in the most recent issue but still, I cannot see myself renewing the subscription; I will not be at all surprised if SAVEUR magazine folds. It’s just not the magazine it was.

Of course, there is also the occasional recipe that stands out. And surprisingly, we almost missed out on trying one that is destined to become one of our standards.

Step aside fried chicken! Stretch’s Chicken Savoy from SAVEUR No.115 requires the table space.

By the time I open the door to the Belmont Tavern, […] [a] crowd of regulars stands three deep at the bar, content to wait out the rush […] As far as this crowd is concerned, Stretch’s chicken [savoy] should be Jersey’s state meal. […] The menu holds many temptations, but I’ve come fo the chicken; it arrives atop a puddle of caramel-colored vinegar. I grasp a thigh and crunch through the seasoned skin into the juicy meat. Ever hopeful, I again ask my waitress for the cook’s secret. She crosses her arms before spinning toward the kitchen. “I have my integrity, ” she answers. “I have my principles.”
[…] We think our version is pretty close.
 
– Michael Ames, “Local Favorite”, SAVEUR No.115, p. 19

Of course we had to make this. But we decided to omit the vinegar and use sherry instead. And we added some burnt toast crumbs too….

Burnt toast crumbs?! Are we crazy? Maybe. But, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. (Mum used to tell us that burnt toast would make our hair curl.)

Grill slices of crusty country-style bread until five-alarm black, and grind them into a fine powder. The fragrant charcoal-like dust lends a nutty, smoky element to spice mixes and sauces, chicken, and roasted vegetables. Or do as we did, and mix it into ice cream.
 
– editors, Burn Your Toast (on Purpose), Saveur100 Cooks’ Edition No.171, p. 28

We did try the burnt toast crumbs on ice cream (remind me to report about that). But we really liked it in roast chicken gravy.

We just happened to have some burnt bread crumbs on hand after one of the loaves of bread got rather burned on one side while being baked (don’t ask…). Once the bread was cooled, we scraped off the burned part and put it in a jar for occasions such as these. Waste not, want not!!

Stretch Chicken wp-image-2016 We have no idea if this particular chicken is even remotely close to Stretch’s Chicken Savoy at the Belmont Tavern in New Jersey. It probably isn’t. But we don’t care. It’s fabulous!

Here’s what we do to make it:

Stretch Chicken
based on the recipe for Stretch’s Chicken Savoy in SAVEUR No. 115

  • 2 chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
  • Ilha branca (hard Portuguese cheese that is similar to pecorino), grated
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano
  • dried thyme
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • burnt toast crumbs
  • dry sherry
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  2. Using a very sharp knife, finely chop cheese and garlic. Put it into a small bowl with oregano, thyme and a good shot of the olive oil. Mix well and set aside. (The SAVEUR recipe suggests using a blender to chop everything together but we found that was more trouble than it was worth and the cheese gets a little gummy.)
  3. Heat a splash of oil in a cast-iron frying pan placed over medium-high heat. Put the chicken thighs in, skin side down, and cook until nicely browned. Turn chicken pieces over. Using a spoon, slather the chicken skin with the herb paste. Surround the chicken with onions and put the skillet into a 350F oven and cook until well-browned and cooked through.
  4. Remove pan from oven, take out chicken and transfer to a hot plate to keep warm. Stir in some burnt toast crumbs and deglaze the pan with sherry.

Serve the chicken immediately with mashed potatoes and a vegetable (we stir-fried cabbage for the dinner in the photo but broccoli and green beans work equally well). Pour the sauce over the potatoes.

This chicken isn’t going to entirely replace fried chicken and biscuits but it is coming close! And of course, now that barbecue season is finally on the horizon, we’ll be more likely to make Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar first. (Remind me to make sure we have dried rosehips….)

Stretch Chicken dinner

Stretch Chicken wp-image-2019

Here’s a big surprise… I still haven’t received a reply from Adam Sachs….

 

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  • Barbara M

    Don’t forget to report about burnt toast crumbs on ice cream. It sounds pretty terrible even when considering the “nutty, smoky element”, but I bet it’s not.

  • Barbara M

    Wow, it looks and sounds great. Are you going to try it with vinegar? That version sounds pretty amazing too. Although the Saveur picture doesn’t look as wonderfully golden brown and delicious as yours, but that’s probably not down to vinegar vs sherry.

    Is it crunchy? Yours looks crunchy but theirs doesn’t really.

  • We might try it with vinegar… but it’s awfully good this way. And yes, it’s crunchy! It’s exactly what we look for in fried chicken. And the SAVEUR picture in the magazine itself looks relatively close to what we made. But did you see the picture that they have on-line? It looks really dull! If they had used that photo in the magazine, I don’t think we would have bothered making it….

  • I’m afraid i am a bit disappointed….. :-D I really expected to see you streeeeeeetch one chicken to feed lets say 24 people ? Although this doesnt sound bad at all….nope, not bad !

  • Oh dear! You’re absolutely right, Karen! And if we weren’t such hogs, we probably could streeeeeeeeeeeetch the chicken to feed not just 24 but perhaps even a hundred. But we are gluttons and will probably continue to hoard it all to ourselves.

  • :-D very wise !