Daydream scenario: I am the chosen chef (One True Chef, if you will) for the Mueller investigation. With death threats and the specter of poisoned Borscht wiping out the whole team in one slurp, they need someone they can trust.
I’m called in to feed the detectives.
The scene opens on Mueller sitting at an honorable desk made of dark, law-abiding mahogany. The room smells of scrupulous black peppercorns and highly principled juniper berries. Robert’s unyielding and thorough necktie hangs on a chair. His impartial coat is draped over an inexorable and tautly upholstered couch. The top two buttons of his shirt are open, revealing a distinguished tuft of chest ha—see how that last bit doesn’t work?
Robert Mueller: The team and I appreciate the unusually delicious meals you have provided. Thank goodness the NSA was able to clear you despite your subversive drawings, extremist ideals—and the constant cussing.
Me: Sir, I’d bring meals even if I wasn’t cleared. If I had to Sir, I would force-feed those who carry out the righteous deed of sinking That-Which-Must-Not-Govern and his coven of human dung shards.
Robert Mueller: Ha-ha. Well, we don’t want to take sides here. This is an unbiased investigation. Any strong leanings or opinions could corrupt this important work so . . .
Me: (winking) Right Boss. We are a neutral group of researchers, just doing some research on some researchable facts. Totally passionless transparency. Neutral is our middle name—Switzerland—that’s us. Switzerland Neutral McImpartial—AKA The Destroyer of Fools (winks again).
Robert Mueller: Don’t call me boss. Thank you for the chicken. Goodbye.
Me: (Winking) Got it, Chief. CHICKEN. Great Code Name for Blowhard-the-Bloviator. Say. No. More.
Me: The CHICKEN I have prepared for you was “investigated”, found guilty and sentenced to “cook”. I have coated The CHICKEN in spices and smashed it with a brick. A real brick. Brick to the head, as they say. Case closed. Bon apetit!
Robert Mueller: (Stares blankly)
Me: You are very welcome, Sir. Anything to sink The Dark Lord, or should I say—Dark Chicken (winks).
Robert: Do not talk anymore.
Robert Mueller starts to text Michael Rogers, Director of the NSA, to request a normal chef—but he can’t quit me. Food’s too good.
Robert Mueller eats the whole CHICKEN, spits out bones.
If ever there was a chef motivated to nourish and fuel a group, it’s now and it’s me. I want this team eating its Wheaties. I wanna see Fish Oils, Salmon Skins, B, C, D, E, F, and G vitamins. I want Superfoods all up in this investigation.
I can’t think of a more powerful superfood than whatever the Unconquerable Basques eat. The Basques are some bad(ass) hombres.
Smoked peppers are a hallmark of Basque cooking. Rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and chicken are staples in the Basque country. I don’t remember where I heard about smashing chickens under boulders—my mom probably. She was unconquerably Basque. Squishing the chicken tenderizes the meat and potentizes flavors. Eskerriska!
Basque Smashed Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, butterflied or spatchcocked
- 1 pound sweet, mild, red peppers--like bell peppers. About 4-5 peppers
- 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced in thick rings
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-cracked, black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Espellette pepper or smoked paprika
- Basque style chorizo
- 3 strips raw bacon or equivalent in pancetta
- 1 (1/2) cups red wine
- 1 bunch fresh, Italian parsley
- 1 big handful of the following fresh herbs: Rosemary, Oregano, Sage.
Wrap a slab of stone or a few bricks in foil if you are afraid of bricks and stones touching your food.
Hack or slice the spine out of a whole chicken. I used kitchen shears and it was barely traumatizing (for me). "Open" the chicken and smash it flat.
Save and freeze the chicken spine for making stock someday. Yeah right. Throw it over the fence for your neighbor's kids to play with. JK. I have bundles of frozen body parts in my freezer that I occasionally render into liquid treasure. Try doing that.
Slice the red onion in rings about 1 centimeter thick.
Peel and smash garlic cloves.
Slice smoked chorizo or salami into coins. Make them thicker than pepperoni sliced for pizza---about four pepperoni thick.
Chop 3 strips of raw bacon into thirds.
Lightly coat both sides of the chicken with olive oil.
Season both sides of the chicken, liberally, with salt, black pepper, and Pimente de Espellette (smoked paprika).
Heat a cast-iron pan on the stove over medium-high heat.
Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the hot pan.
Lay the rings of chorizo and the pieces of bacon evenly in the pan.
Lay the onion rings over the chorizo and bacon.
Place the garlic ON TOP of the onions. The garlic will burn and become bitter if it sits directly on the hot iron.
All should be starting to sizzle.
Lay the chicken, skin-side down, on top of the garlic/onions/chorizo.
Place fresh herbs evenly over the exposed, top-side of the chicken (chicken is inside up).
Lay halves and quarters of red pepper over the herbs, pepper skins side up.
Place brick or stone slab over the peppers. Add more weight. I placed a heavy pot containing a boulder on top of my stone slab. Smash that chicken.
Cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes. Check to see if the chicken, onions, etc. have browned well. If yes, time to flip it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove weights and carefully slide chicken onto a large plate. There will be some spilling, calm down. Carefully flip it over and into the pan, chicken-skin and onion side up.
Replace weights and cook another 12 minutes.
Add 1 (1/2) cups wine. If the chicken is not 3/4 submerged in liquid, add a little more wine or some water. Let the chicken simmer 10 minutes.
Remove weights and place in the 350 degree oven for another 10 minutes or so, until sauce has reduced nicely and chicken is perfectly done.
Chop Italian parsley and sprinkle over whole chicken to carve and serve family-style in pan at the table.
This chicken comes out of the oven and it's gorgeous. It takes your breath away like a sun-goddess on fire shooting lasers out of her palms. The leftovers are real good too.