Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lotsaherbs Roast Chicken

This apron was given to me by my flatmate and she trusts at least one of the dishes I've cooked - roast chicken! She said that it's the best she's tasted so far. And believe me, she's finicky!

I am in turn thanking Jamie Oliver because I got the recipe from his book The Naked Chef. Just added an onion and made the chicken bigger because the small one was gobbled up too soon. Plus he and Nigella Lawson are my mentors in the kitchen as they show that cooking is to be enjoyed and doesn't have to be complicated. You don't need to have all the gadgets or even all the ingredients. One can go by instinct and taste.

Anyway, will be putting in some recipes I've discovered and continue to discover in this blog as I move forward on my culinary journey. I definitely love cooking now and I'm so looking forward to whipping up these dishes for my dear husband. Cooking is helping me to bridge the distance between us as I feel near to him when I cook dishes I know he'll love.

Lotsaherbs Roast Chicken
(Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s My Perfect Roast Chicken)

1 medium-sized whole chicken
salt and pepper
olive oil
3 handfuls of fresh or dried herbs (basil, parsley and marjoram), chopped
1 lemon, quartered
1 onion, quartered
4 bay or laurel leaves (fresh or dried)
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Wash the chicken inside and out and dry as much as possible. Rub the cavity with salt. Pull back the skin at the tips of the chicken breasts and pull up gently (make sure it doesn’t rip). Then gently separate the skin from the rest of the breast meat. Sprinkle in some salt and push in the chopped herbs followed by some olive oil. As I only had fresh parsley, I added some dry herbs. It also works.

In the cavity of the chicken, put in your lemon, onion, bay leaves and rosemary. Lastly, rub some more oil in the chicken skin and season with salt and pepper. This will ensure that the skin is nice and crispy. Lastly, Jamie Oliver slashes each leg three times near the bones and puts in leftover herbs there (didn't really do this part).

Put in the chicken in the tray and cook for about an hour or when the chicken looks golden already. One rule is that you need 45 minutes per kilo of chicken. You can put in some potatoes too into the roasting tray so it cooks together with the chicken. It will smell heavenly.

Variation of Gryphon Hall

Well, that's how my wife did it. I knew about the existence of my Ærynn's highly successful recipe (thanks to The Naked Chef) for some time now. So, when my mom and I were able to get our hands on a particularly succulent specimen of chicken, I immediately sent an SMS to my wife to get the recipe. (What I should have known is that Ærynn already published the recipe over here; if I had known, I wouldn't have called her during office hours.)

At any rate, she gave me a truncated version of what you see up there. However, I did not have an oven—what I had was a Turbo Broiler (you know, those contraptions that cook by trapping and heating air around animal carcasses or vegetables for a period of time), and she wasn't able to tell me about the breast augmentation operation. I didn't have lemons (what does one do when life doesn't give you lemons?), I didn't have basil, marjoram, parsely, sage, rosemary, or thyme (I didn't go to Scarborough Fair or anything to get 'em), and I didn't have olive oil.

But the principle of The Naked Chef is to make food with the lowest possible fuss, so I had to find other ingredients to make do. Well, I had none of the herbs mentioned above, but I had pandan leaves and oregano. Pandan has traditionally been used as part of the stuffing of chicken in the Philippines, so I guess I can't go wrong there. Hmmmmm... I need more flavor... so I crushed and chopped up some garlic, onions and ginger root to go in with it, sprinkled with powdered oregano. Well, I didn't stuff it to the full as much as I wanted it to (there was about 75% of airspace left over), but I didn't have enough ingredients. I used ordinary cooking oil instead of olive oil; not to worry, I used some of that Omega 9 stuff that's supposedly healthy.

Okay, so I rubbed salt and pepper on the skin, yadda yadda yadda... then, on a whim, I peeled an onion, made some cuts all around it, then stuffed it up the dead chicken's a**... actually, more like plugged it up with the purple onion. This would later result into something serendipitious.

I carefully put the chicken inside the turbo broiler and, instead of putting water at the bottom (as one is told one must always do otherwise you end up with dry, bland meat), I put instead, on another whim, a peeled onion and a tomato to provide the humidity inside.

So, I put on the lid, then left it...

... about 15-20 minutes later I came back to turn the chicken over (the manufacturer said that in a turbo broiler, since the air is doing the cooking, one doesn't need to turn over food; but I've found that that isn't entirely accurate) and, lo and behold! Because of the onion stuck up the chicken's a** the little air that was left inside expanded and made the chicken not only larger to behold, thereby pulling taut the skin (making it crispier) and, as an unforseen but welcome side-effect, boiling the herb soup I put inside the chicken, heat-marinading it from the inside, infusing the entire torso and fleshy parts with the flavor. It's like a scene out of Cooking Master Boy (pictured on the left) or the Iron Chef (pictured on the right)!

Now, hitherto whenever Mom would turbo broil a chicken, we usually ended up with a very "flavorful" skin (sometimes, too flavorful) that was not crispy and chicken flesh that was dried out and bland (unless it was marinated overnight, but it would still be dry). Ha-ha! Not so with this variation of chicken! Not even marinated, yet the flavor in the torso was noticeable! And more noticeable because it was juicy. The skin was crispy and flavorful, and steam would rise as the skin is broken and the chicken carved up.

Of course, the drum sticks and the wings were not infused with the special herbal soup, not being in any proximity to the cavity. But at least those choice cuts had plenty of skin and, thanks to the humidity regulation of the tomato and the onion inside the broiler with the chicken, was juicy also.

Anyway, I'm sure that now I have the complete version, I think I can come up with an even better variation.

Back to you, Ærynn!