Balsamic BBQ Chicken with Oven Frites

I think this meal is going to be a new staple in my dinner repertoire, especially once it's warm enough outside to grill. I've always wanted to make my own barbecue sauce because I'd like to be able to tweak it perfectly to my liking and this one blew me away a bit! Normally, I avoid vinegary tasting barbecue sauces; they're completely unappealing to me. I can't tell you what it is about this sauce (by Giada DeLaurentiis, by the way) that's different from the others, perhaps the specific use of balsamic vinegar (which I adore), but the vinegary bite is almost addictive.

The fries were made with an "Oven Frites" recipe by Martha Stewart (go figure, two of my three favorite cooks!). She slices them thin and bakes them at a high temperature so that they're crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I swear they're better than the traditional fried version. I'll admit I've grown tired of fast food fries, but I don't doubt anybody else would devour these like an order of McDonald's, especially with the addition of some Italian herbs and cheese. They're so super crunchy on the outside and light inside, just as a good fry should be! Dipped in the vinegary barbecue sauce...oh...my...goodness. I wish I had a plate right now!!

Balsamic BBQ Chicken with Oven Frites (to serve two)

*I hate recipes that assume I know exactly what I'm doing, so I have a tendency to add extraneous detail for anyone who may not be an avid or comfortable cook. Because of this, I've added three notes at the bottom of the recipe, generally about how best to optimize time so that all aspects of the dish finish together and how to alter cooking times for different cuts of meat. The recipe is broken up into three; the potatoes alone, the sauce alone, the chicken alone. If you're comfortable, you can figure out how to juggle these things yourself to create the dish; if not, that bottom section is for you :)

Balsamic BBQ Sauce, by Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, whisking until the mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined. Cook over medium heat until reduced by a third, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't burn. Remove from heat when finished (or keep warm by leaving it on low).

Oven Frites, by Martha Stewart

  • 2 medium baking potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • dried Italian herbs (choose your faves! I did parsley, oregano, and basil, though rosemary would be superb)
  • freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set a heavy baking sheet inside the oven and leave it to heat for at least 15 minutes. This will create a hot base for your potatoes to immediately start crisping on. Skin on or off (your choice), slice the potatoes into 1/3 to 1/2-inch wide batons. Place the potatoes in a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients, sprinkling the amount of herbs and cheese of your liking.

Remove the heated baking sheet from the oven, spread the potatoes on it in a single layer, and return it right to the oven. After about 30 minutes, when they're golden on the bottom, flip the potatoes; continue to cook until golden all over, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Chicken Thighs

  • 2 - 4 pieces of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (I used, specifically, thighs connected to the leg)

As should always be the case, thoroughly wash and dry your chicken before cooking it (if it's not dry, it won't brown properly). If there's any fat (there shouldn't be if you buy organic!), remove it. Season with salt and pepper. Set an oven-proof saute pan (I use cast-iron) to medium-high heat and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil (depending on how many pieces of chicken you're browning). When it starts to smoke, add your chicken pieces, skin side down. Brown all sides of the meat (you want a nice shade of walnut); it'll take about a total of 10 minutes.

There are two ways to brown, that I know of. If you're a person who tends to burn the meat when you try to brown, move it often. I know, you're always told "never touch the meat"--let it fully crisp on one side and then turn it. In a Julia Child cookbook, though, she said to turn the meat often! And we all know Julia is God; I started doing this and have since stopped burning the outside of my meat. If you don't have that problem, though, feel free to stick with leaving it to fully crisp before turning.

Once all sides are browned and crisp, place the pan in the oven (chicken skin side up) and allow to cook for another 25-30 minutes. Halfway through, I like to quickly pull the chicken out for a brushing of sauce; I repeat this once or twice more. By doing so, your sauce has time to caramelize. You can also set the sauced chicken under the broiler for a few minutes, at the very end of cooking, to quickly caramelize. Once finished, allow the chicken to rest for at least ten minutes so that the juices settle back into the meat.

Serve alongside your oven frites and a bowl of extra sauce, for dipping. Yum!!


Multiple oven temperatures: The chicken is cooked at 375 degrees while the fries are cooked at 400. If you don't have two ovens (or aren't using a completely different method to cook the chicken), this can create a problem. I chose to compromise my fries rather than my chicken, cooking at the lower heat, but leaving them in longer. Because the fries were still in the oven for ten minutes after removing the chicken, I raised the heat to 400 to finish them off, ensuring they crisped properly.

Timing the dish: The breakdown is that your potatoes need nearly an hour in the oven (if cooked in the same oven as the chicken), chicken thighs need about 40 minutes to cook and ten to rest, and the sauce needs 15-20 to cook and reduce. Because of this, I get my sauce started on the stove first, then get the potatoes in the oven, and lastly start my chicken while the potatoes and sauce are both cooking. With this method, my sauce is done in enough time to brush the chicken while it's cooking; then, my potatoes finish cooking and, therefore, remain hot while the chicken is resting before its served. If you do have two ovens and can cook the fries and chicken separately, though, I recommend starting the chicken first because a room temperature chicken is much more appetizing than room temperature fries.

Cooking different cuts of chicken: When I'm eating straight chicken (as opposed to a sandwich/chicken salad or something similar), I prefer to eat dark meat. I'm one of those who believe that dark meat isn't actually much worse for you than white and it's just so much juicier and tender. For that reason, the timing in this recipe is for dark meat--bone-in, skin on. If you want to use something else, here is my general guideline for chicken: always cook at 375 degrees; 20 minutes for boneless breast, 30 minutes for bone-in breast, 35-40 minutes for bone-in thigh/leg (I've never done boneless, so I can't help you there!). If you brown the chicken, remember that you must reduce your oven time to reflect the amount of time spent browning; otherwise, you'll get some dry, chewy chicken! I promise you, mine is almost always fork tender--you should not need a knife to cut this (besides maybe a crispy skin, if you choose to leave it on). Your chicken is done when the juices run clear; just prick with a fork and pay attention. I find a lot of people overcook their chicken and it's completely unnecessary!

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