How To!

How To Cook One Perfect Meal

Can New York Times superchef Sam Sifton help a twentysomething win back his ex with a home-cooked meal?

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What if Dear Abby were an investigative reporter? Each week, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit) takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t. Until now.

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Episode Notes

Jonny is a 26-year-old bachelor whose cooking often leads to heartache (and for one ex-girlfriend, a stomachache). Jonny admits he’s a klutz in the kitchen, so we hooked him up with Sam Sifton, cookbook raconteur and head of the New York Times’ Cooking section, to see if we can teach our lovelorn millennial to cook one perfect meal. Is romantic bliss just a well-browned chicken thigh away?

Podcast production by Derek John.

Sam Sifton’s recipe for “one perfect meal”:

4–6 chicken thighs
Rice
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Rosemary
Green beans
Lemon
Almond slivers
Brie
Baguette
Mallomars
Organic milk
Prosecco and/or red wine for dinner

1. Set out the brie in advance so it starts to soften.

2. Use a rice cooker to start cooking 1–2 cups of rice (approx 30 min).

3. Boil green beans for three minutes in salted water, then rinse them under cold water in a colander (until they are cool) and set aside.

4. Take a heavy bottom pan and fill it with approximately 10 glugs of olive oil (more than you think you’ll need).

5. Heavily season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, red pepper flake,s and rosemary (more than you’d think of everything).

6. Put the pan with olive oil over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.

7. Place the thighs in the pan, skin side down, and watch for the oil to bubble. Not out of control, but let it bubble a bit. Don’t be scared. You’re doing great.

8. After 15–20 minutes—when the chicken skin is a nice brown mahogany—turn the thighs over.

9. Cook for another 10–15 minutes until they have a nice mahogany color all over. (You can cut into one to make sure it’s cooked through. Look for clear juices and white meat.)

10. Toss the green beans in a skillet over low-medium heat for a few minutes with butter, and add salt and almond slivers. Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

11. Plate the chicken and rice and green beans. (Make sure the beans are all pointing in the same direction.) Wipe the edges of the plate, because that’s really classy.

12. After you eat the meal, bring out the baguette with the soft brie. Point out how gooey it is, because that’s also classy (at least it is in France, which is a pretty classy place).

13. For dessert, bring out the Mallomars with a small glass of organic milk.

14. Whatever happens, don’t apologize. Be confident and focus on bringing joy to your dinner date. You’re both gonna love it.