By nature I am a non-recipe cook. I use cookbooks and recipes only when I need specific information or a certain technique. One of the things I love about cooking is experimentation, the freedom to be creative. But there is one recipe that I follow faithfully at around this time every summer: Chicken Purloo. I found it in the NY Times when I was looking for okra ideas. Although it is almost absurdly involved, it's worth it.
Since this is essentially the only recipe I follow, I get kind of anal with it, prepping carefully and laying everything out in a nice mise-en-place.
Purloo is a New Orleans/African style baked rice dish. There are layers of vegetables, rice, and chicken that cook together in a big pot. You begin by browning chicken pieces - I used to cut up a whole chicken but I found that the white meat parts don't respond well to this kind of cooking, so now I go with thighs and legs. The foundation of the dish is something that is apparently very common in New Orleans cooking - a dice of green pepper, celery, and onion. Better to pronounce it "on-yown," like Justin Wilson used to. This, along with eggplant, a bay leaf, some dried thyme and crushed chili flakes, becomes the first layer in a large pot.
San Marzano tomatoes because they are the greatest sauce tomato that I know of. Why don't I use fresh tomatoes? I 'm following a recipe here...