After New Year’s Day’s lunch, I had more than half a bottle of that cheap $5 kind of white wine leftover, along with a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken tenders yet to be cooked, and I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. That was all this was supposed to be, a recipe to use things up, to get rid of what was expiring, but, like some of my favorite friendships or best memories, little did I know what it would become.
Here is how it started: Pulling out my Dutch oven, I laid eight seasoned chicken tenders inside, covering them with a very basic sauce of white wine and vegetable oil; checked them after 45 minutes to stir things around; and, in just over an hour of total baking time, pulled the pan out, the intense and satisfying smell of what I would eventually dub boozy chicken radiating through the kitchen, rich and warm and, pun intended, intoxicating. I’m not a drinker so, as a rule, the scent of alcohol isn’t likely to weaken knees, but people, this was something else.
It was Julia Child who said a good roast chicken is the kind that tastes nice and “chickeny”—and if you’ve ever tasted a well-roasted, seasoned, juicy bird, the kind that’s been turned 45 degrees every 15 minutes for several hours to simulate a rotisserie and, when it emerges from the oven, that’s golden on the outside, with crispy skin giving way to tender, flavorful meat inside, you know exactly what she means. I’d have spent the rest of my life assuming all that labor was the only way to get good roast chicken, the kind of chicken that becomes a base for salads and sandwiches and pasta dishes and anything else that will showcase its Julia-esque chickeny flavor, and I’d have been wrong.
A few bites in, it was all I could do to keep myself from eating piece after tender piece with my fingers, licking the buttery seasonings and smacking my lips together and still, after I ate a few of the tenders plain, things got even better.