The chicken that killed Grandpa

This dish got its start as an ancient Craig Claiborne recipe my mom clipped from The New York Times Magazine around 1970. The dish, called Rose de la Garza's Texas Chicken, was the last thing my grandpa ate, so my mom changed its name in his honor. Over the years it has changed and evolved. (For the original, you didn't brown the chicken, deglaze the pan or use cilantro!) It's easy to put together and makes a festive (and mighty colorful) one-dish dinner or main course. You can use a whole cut-up chicken instead of only whole legs; if you do, brown all the pieces at the same time, but don't add the breasts until the legs have been cooking 15 minutes. You can also mix other summer squash in with the zucchini, or use only green zucchini. Swap ground coriander and cumin for the crushed seeds if you're in a rush.

One thing that may surprise you: When you pile the chicken and all the vegetables in the pan, you cover it, and that's it – you don't add liquid. The vegetables and tomato will take care of that for you, making plenty of lovely sauce on their own.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

2 pounds yellow and green zucchini 

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

6 whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh attached), or 12 drumsticks or 12 thighs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium or large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium serrano chile, seeded and chopped fine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cobs

1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into large dice (about 6-7 Roma tomatoes), or one large (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, drained

3 tablespoons of roughly chopped cilantro, plus cilantro sprigs for garnishing

Instructions

1. Trim the zucchini or summer squash and cut it into 1/2-inch slices. Pat the chicken pieces dry, and salt and pepper them generously all over.

2. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small sauté pan or skillet over medium heat until they're fragrant, about 3 minutes. Crush them in a mortar to a rough powder or grind them in a spice grinder.

3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until it is not but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces and brown them well on all sides – about 5 minutes on each side. You'll probably need to do this in two batches. Remove the pieces to a bowl as they're browned.

4. Pour out all but about a tablespoon of oil from the casserole, lower the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, coriander/cumin and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the vinegar, turn up the heat to high, and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, until the liquid is nearly evaporated. 

5. Add the chicken, then the zucchini, corn and tomatoes. Cover the pot and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the cilantro, taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if necessary. Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes, then serve, garnishing it with cilantro sprigs.