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Over the holidays I am happy to say that at least three events were hosted and enjoyed. A year ago when we first moved into our new place together, my husband and I were still waiting for boxes to arrive and had a pretty pathetic display of Christmas decor. We were living on an inflatable mattress so decorating was the least of our worries. While the apartment will never be finished in my eyes, the kitchen, dining, and living rooms have reached pretty good entertaining-ready stages which meant that the holiday season was not going to pass without getting a few parties under my belt. I don’t shy away from the kitchen and actually have a lot of fun baking, prepping, and roasting different meals or go to staples that I know will always taste good. Little accomplishments over the stove always give me the confidence to host another party, like when I presented my first batch of eggy, airy popovers to my Christmas Eve guests and they were devoured within minutes. However, fancy parties don’t always mean fancy foods and while I think I have a handle on the whole hosting thing, I am by no means a caterer with tricks up my sleeve. This means comforting foods served family style are the only way to go, which is how I happened upon this spiced lemon thyme chicken dish. Chicken isn’t that glamorous and when placed next to a crown roast or perfectly basted turkey the winner is pretty obvious, but there is a reason chicken is and will always be a kitchen staple. The everyday meat is good, comforting, familiar, and sure to give guests a peek into why your home is so inviting around the holidays. I like the fact that I don’t need to be best friends with a local butcher or specialty farmer get the meat I’m looking for either, although if you want to feel really special you can pluck your own bird straight from the farm and de-feather it on your own. I’ll be at Trader Joe’s sorting through the pre-packaged varieties while you cover the kitchen with feathers. Needless to say, entertaining means picking your battles and taking a few shortcuts (like using grocery store items) when they make sense.

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Back to the recipe at hand and the lightly spiced chicken that will be my new entertaining specialty. For New Year’s Eve I served a big platter of this for guests and among the glittering and glowing table, the savory tray of chicken fit right in with the set up. I mentioned that my dining room has reached a point where it can comfortably hold a dinner party, but what is really special about the room is that while the table, chairs, and surrounding accents may be in place, the guests are what really complete the decor. A dim setting with clinking wine glasses, laughter, and passed trays of family style food are how I measure the success of a party. By the time the plates were cleared on New Year’s Eve, another bottle of wine was opened, and gold glittered placecards had shuffled around the seats, the pile of chicken had diminished and another successful party was added to the list of holiday entertaining.

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Spiced lemon thyme chicken – Serves 8
2 packages of chicken cut into 8 pieces (this usually comes with 2 breasts, thighs, wings, and legs)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 c. olive oil

– Arrange the chicken pieces in one layer in a glass baking dish (use two dishes if they don’t fit in one).
– Combine lemon zest, juice, paprika, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a bowl. The measurements don’t have to be exact so feel free to add more spices if needed or more olive oil if there isn’t enough to cover both dishes of chicken.
– Pour the marinade over chicken, coating both sides until everything is covered.
– Cover dishes and set aside for 30 minutes or let marinate in fridge overnight. Remove from fridge before baking so the chicken isn’t chilled.
– Preheat oven to 400-degrees, then cook for 40-50 minutes.
– Serve with juices from the pan.