In summer, its hardest season, the fridge in the butcher’s shop below our flat hums. It isn’t a constant hum, or even a consistent one. Mostly, it sounds like a tired bee trapped against glass in another room. But then, every so often, it gets louder, turning first into a cross wasp, then an old tube train, before dropping off so suddenly, it sounds as if it has been turned off. It hasn’t, of course, and soon, like a child playing or someone on a cheerful stroll, it is humming again.
This fridge has caused controversy in our building, being responsible for sleepless nights and a divorce. As someone who sleeps through almost everything, I know the level of hum only because it has kept me company reading or scrolling on my phone. The issue goes away in winter, when the fridge, with less to do, is turned down, meaning the hum is more of a vibration through the tiles. Which are also warm. A shop, and a fridge, that provides us with inadvertent underfloor heating, as well as the chicken thighs for this week’s recipe, which are also ideal for a party.
I went downstairs for 12 thighs this week, and could see the fridge as I stood at the cash desk. My butcher nods when I buy thighs, which I take more as a sign of approval that I am not buying breasts. An average chicken thigh, with skin and bone, weighs 90-100g, which shrinks during cooking, so I estimate three per person.
The recipe begins with a marinade, during which time lemon tenderises the darker meat by denaturing or unwinding the long protein in the muscle and connective tissue, which also allows the garlic, rosemary and oregano to unwind, too. This recipe is inspired by Rena Salaman and her wonderful book Greek Food, an affectionate celebration of traditional recipes. It is a mix of her lemon potatoes – soft and slightly sticky from the reduced oil and lemon juice – and her roast chicken and potatoes. Rena’s note about the potatoes is relevant here: cooked along with the chicken, they do turn golden, but they don’t crisp like other roast potatoes, due to all the juices they absorb, and are all the better for it.
Like the fridge in winter, this recipe is not demanding – just a few steps and one tray – and very rewarding; warming not just the tiles, but the whole room and everyone in it.
Baked chicken and potatoes with lemon and rosemary
Serves 4, or 8 as part of buffet
1.2kg bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
5 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large lemon, or 2 small ones
150ml olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
2 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp dried oregano
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Put the chicken and potatoes in a large bowl, squeeze over the lemon juice and add the olive oil, garlic, the needles from one sprig of rosemary and other whole sprig, salt and oregano, and toss really well. Cut the empty lemon skins into wedges, add to the bowl, toss again and leave to sit for 45 minutes, if you can.
Put the potatoes and chicken skin side down in a baking tray that accommodates them in more or less a single layer, making sure to scrape in all the marinade, then roast for 45 minutes, turning the chicken midway, so it is now skin side up. Lift the chicken on to a platter, return potatoes and lemon bits to the oven, and turn it upfor about 10 minutes, so the potatoes turn golden.
Transfer the potatoes and lemon to the chicken platter, put the tray on a medium flame and add a little white wine to the lengthen juices. Scrape the bottom of the tray with a wooden spoon to dislodge any bits, let the juices bubble away for a minute or so, then pour over the chicken and potatoes and serve.