Recipe: Jon’s Millennial Chicken
This post is meant to snap my cold streak and to try a different form of writing.
Chef's choice of chicken, preferably bone-in and skin-on and whatever is cheapest per kilogram
Instant-read meat thermometer
Sheet Pan, preferably with taller walls
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Line pan with aluminum foil. Add olive oil.
Add the chicken pieces. Crack salt and pepper generously. Flip and repeat.
Place pan in the oven for about 35-45 minutes, depending on the size and nature of your cuts. Bone-in will take longer.
Once the timer is done, check the internal temperature of the chicken, near the bone or centre of the cut. It should be at least 74ºC but not much more.
Splash some fish sauce on the birds.
I like jasmine rice.
Measure out your rice with the kitchen scale.
Note the mass of your rice pot.
Rinse and drain the rice three times to remove all the starch.
Using the kitchen scale, measure out a water:rice ratio of 1.7 and 2.0.
Very important step: remember to set your rice cooker to the “Rice Cooking” setting. Don’t leave it on “Keep Warm.”
What's the deal with Jon’s Millennial Chicken?
Millennial Chicken appeals to the priorities of the millennial generation (and Zoomers), many of whom weren't taught how to cook by their boomer parents. It is a low-cost, low-fuss dish that requires minimal prep and clean-up. Chicken doesn't like to be fiddled with once it's being cooked. Toss it in the oven, start your timer, and go do other things. Unfortunately, it does not tick the box for the vegetarians and vegans, but I'm only one person with very little training in designing recipes.
Our society is collectively waking up to the impossible equation of making a living as a young person almost anywhere. Rent has been out of control for a long time in most cities, and inflation is spiking because of unreasonable corporate greed amidst reasonable pandemic-related supply issues. This recipe is my low-cost and sufficiently-flavourful dish that allows me to resume battling the cost of living crisis.
We're also using more scientific knowledge and methods to make cooking more efficient. For instance, one piece of random trivia knowledge is that both sides of the aluminum foil are safe to cook with. They just look different because of the milling process. Additionally, fat is where all the flavour is. Consuming oils and fats will not make you gain weight, which is what excessive sugar and carbs do. Get the chicken cuts with the skin still on.
There are many ways to measure and define the best cooking process, but the common ones are too ambiguous for my preference.
For instance, observing the colour of the meat is one lagging indicator of the safety and texture of the meat, but it's not a great measure. Cooked chicken can still be pink. Cooking time is another decent though rough measurement, but it also varies by many factors, like the cut of the chicken, your cooking equipment, position in the oven, etc.
Rice also needs to be rinsed and drained. Otherwise, leaving the excess starch in the cooking process essentially makes rice bread, and the final texture is far too sticky and gross.
There are also a couple common ways to cook rice, visually or volumetrically, but I found them to be inconsistent. Most people set the water to be twice the height of the rice when sitting in the pot, usually using their finger to “measure” the height of the rice and then ensure the water sits the same distance above the top of the rice. Blech. Measuring mass is more consistent, though it does take a bit of math. I’ve also found that different brands or even batches within the same bag can require different water-to-rice ratios to get the same texture at the end. The mass of my pot is 438 g, I usually cook about 350 g of rice, and this current bag has been good with a ratio of 1.7 of water to rice.
Here is the equation:
mass of pot,rice,water = mass of pot + mass of rice + mass of water
The only hard part to measure is the mass of water because of the rinsing process. Plus, we can rewrite it like so:
mass of water = mass of rice x ratio of water to rice
Substituting it back in to the original equation, we get:
mass of pot,rice,water = mass of pot + mass of rice + mass of rice x ratio of water to rice
Since we have a common term with the mass of rice, we can simplify the equation and rewrite it as:
mass of pot,rice,water = mass of pot + mass of rice x (1 + ratio of water to rice)
We’ve removed the hard part of measuring the mass of water, leaving us with only variables that are easy to find! Plugging in the actual numbers for how I like my rice:
Mass of pot = 438 g
Mass of rice = 350 g
Ratio of water to rice = 1.7
mass of pot,rice,water = 438 g + 350 x (1 + 1.7)
mass of pot,rice,water = 1383 g
At the end, I need the total mass of the pot, rice, and water to be around 1383 g.
The instant-read thermometer and kitchen scale are excellent tools that are sufficiently inexpensive, high-precision, and high-accuracy, and they will help us produce a more controlled and consistent end-product. Both can be had for under $20 to $30 each and provide benefits far outside of the kitchen.
As for flavour, this recipe may be pretty boring to some, but fish sauce does the job for me. You can add your own sauce before tossing it in the oven or even marinate it overnight, but why the hell are you wasting your precious little free time marinating chicken instead of rejoining the front lines of the class war? Saucing the chicken is outside the scope of this exercise. If you do indeed have the time to marinate chicken, maybe you should spend that time sponsoring a millennial and supporting them to earn more than poverty wages.
There you go! Next time you feel too tired to plan to cook an elaborate meal, go to the grocery store and find the cheapest bone-in and skin-on chicken cuts that you can find. I’m not remotely reinventing the wheel here, but my values guide a lot of the execution of this particular recipe. You probably already have most of the ingredients and equipment, and you can make it your own by following similar principles.