We hear a lot about the challenges of being a single mom; in fact, many of us were raised by one, so we get it. Not so often, though, do we hear from single dads. Here’s a story from that perspective. Like many single parents, Martín’s main challenges are finances and time, but he’s driven to push through those challenges by love for his seven year-old daughter. Dinner-time, however, exacerbates those challenges, and for a while Martín was in a rut. He’d relied on his old standby, chicken and rice too long, and his daughter was starting to notice. One night, after she’d complained about eating the same thing the last time he’d served her dinner, he got an idea. “Hey, you want special daddy chicken for dinner tonight?” he said. “What’s that?” she replied, interest piqued. “You wanna find out?” Heck yeah she did, so Martín got to work in the kitchen utilizing a recipe he’d learned from his dad.
When he was a teenager, Martín often joined his dad in the kitchen watching while his father cooked breakfast or slapped together a quick family dinner. Because he was a teacher, Martín’s father got home at 2:30 each day and got dinner started. Martín often joined him in the kitchen; though he preferred watching over cooking as it all seemed like too much work.
When Martín was in junior high school, his father took on a second job and encouraged Martín to learn how to make chicken wings, so he could get dinner started for his parents. Little did he know learning this recipe would pay off in a big way years later. Once he enchanted his little girl into wanting “Special Daddy Chicken,” Martín opened a new door in their relationship, which has recently culminated in her joining him in the kitchen. His daughter, though, isn’t content to just watch, so he’s had to become proactive and get her involved in a safe manner. Thus, she’s become the garlic-chopping champ via her garlic zoomer, a small toy-car-like device that chops garlic as she zooms it across the counter. This girl, though, is not content with just one job. She’s precocious and wants to challenge herself, which leads to a short-lived chopping session with a knife as we stand by. It got a little hairy there for a moment.
While it’s sweet to watch father and daughter work in the kitchen together, Martín admits some days he doesn’t want the help. He’s starving, the clock is ticking, and he needs to bust out a meal sans bandaids. But when she pops into the kitchen ready to fill her zoomer, he reminds himself to chill out.
While Special Daddy Chicken has engaged his daughter and drawn them together in the kitchen, Martín still has to worry about making enough time and earning enough money to feed his daughter healthy food. He relies on large packages of chicken, 20 lb bags of rice and veggies from the weekly sale. One great thing about this recipe, he explains, is it can last an entire week. We’ll eat leftovers for a few days and even turn them into chicken sandwiches later in the week, which saves both money and time.
As he hovers over his gigantic cast iron skillet, Martín tells us, “It’s really easy to put a different spin on [the chicken].” But you have to begin with sautéed garlic and onion; then, you can toss in other spices and ingredients to mix it up. According to Martín’s daughter, though, there’s one key to Special Daddy Chicken.
Of course it is. What kid wouldn’t love a meal with sugar as its key ingredient? Martín sets us straight on why sugar matters; it adds just a hint of sweet, but more importantly, brown sugar caramelizes more slowly leaving a crystalized sheen over the meat.
As we sit down to eat, Martín reflects on his meal. “Cooking is like writing a song,” he says. “I start from the heart, toss a bunch of stuff in there and hope I end up in the same spot.”
When we asked his daughter what she thought of this rendition of Special Daddy Chicken, she took a deep breath. “Well,”
To this day, whenever Martin's daughter goes to someone’s house for dinner, she asks for chicken and rice. Gone are the days of dinner dissatisfaction. What more can a single dad want than his daughter’s approval?
Special Daddy Chicken
6-8 pieces of bone in chicken thighs
2 tb olive oil
1 whole clove of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
Dash of paprika
Honey to taste
2 tb brown sugar (or white sugar)
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan (cast iron is preferred). Place chicken pieces into pan and let cook on low while you prepare the sauce. Chop garlic and then mix in a small bowl with soy sauce and water. Add this mixture to the pan, season with paprika and cover. Cook on low heat for about 30 min then uncover, squeeze honey over chicken and sprinkle chicken with sugar. Turn heat up to medium high and cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until chicken starts to get a good glaze on it. Serve with rice and veggies.