Herbs flourish under adverse conditions.
I was told this once by an organic farmer, and have seen the proof. No matter how many 95-degree days I forget to water them, no many how many frigid winters I neglect to bring them inside, the herbs on my deck seem to survive, growing green in spite of my brown thumb.
This year, it’s the fresh, fragrant bay leaves that have done especially well — which presents me with an unusual predicament: what do I do with a glut of them?
Most recipes calling for bay leaves require one or two. I have dozens at my disposal.
One answer is to use lots of them in a marinade for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The dense, dark meat can take the deeply herbal flavour, gaining complexity from the piney fragrance of the leaves.
Bay leaves also have a mild citrus scent, so to bring that out, I grated some orange zest into the marinade. Mustard seeds add pungency and heat, while cumin and coriander provide a gently spicy note.
Finally, I dashed in some Worcestershire sauce, because I love the umami richness it gives dishes, and because — Caesar salad excepted — I don’t use it often enough. (It’s often forgotten in the depths of my cupboard.)
Since the marinade’s ingredients are intense, and boneless chicken thighs are relatively thin, a long stint in the marinade isn’t necessary. An hour will do, though, if you want to plan ahead, you can marinate the chicken up to a day in advance and keep it in the fridge.
Or do what I did: marinate the thighs, then decide at the last minute to go out for sushi. Stick them in the freezer, where they’ll keep for a month. Then, one day, when you think there’s nothing in the house for dinner, discover the icy bag underneath the lemon sorbet. Defrost and proceed.
The only downside to the freezing is that you’ll no longer have the orange you zested for the marinade, which you would have used in the salad that goes with the thighs. No matter. If you’re at all like me, there’s probably another in the produce drawer of your fridge, missing stripes of zest that were used to garnish Negronis.
These I sipped while sitting on the deck, admiring the herbs — and closing the happy summer circle of gardening, eating and cocktailing.
Bay Leaf Chicken with Orange Parsley Salad
Makes 4 servings
For the chicken:
6 fresh bay leaves, torn (or use 3 dried bay leaves)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp finely grated orange zest (reserve orange for salad)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
For the salad:
1 bunch parsley, leaves only
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp rice-wine vinegar, plus more to taste
1 small garlic clove, finely grated or minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Total time: 30 minutes, plus marinating
1. In a large bowl, mix together bay leaves, garlic, oil, salt, mustard seeds, orange zest, Worcestershire sauce, cumin and coriander. Add chicken and turn to coat, then cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to overnight.
2. Heat oven to 425 F. Arrange chicken in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, spooning marinade on top. Drizzle with more oil, then roast until chicken is cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the salad: cut off top and bottom of the orange so it can stand on a flat side, then cut away the white pith and rind to expose the fruit. Slice away the segments away from the membrane, then chop segments into 1/2-inch pieces.
4. In a large bowl, combine orange pieces and any juices from the cutting board, parsley and scallions.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic and salt. When chicken is done, transfer to a serving plate and scrape all the chicken drippings from pan into the vinegar mixture. Whisk together to combine, then drizzle vinegar over oranges and greens. Toss to combine and add more vinegar and salt to taste. Serve chicken topped with orange-greens mixture.