Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Well, THAT'S An Interesting Place To Stick A Lemon

Tonight, I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to tackle a set of recipes that would not only need timing and some skill - but also would include some things I've never tried before. After perusing our cookbooks over the weekend, I found a set of recipes that had everything I was looking for. A multi-step process that would require some skill to keep everything on time (and not up in smoke), a new unique vegetable and... an odd place to stick some fruit. Tonight's blog is a longer, more complicated one than we've done so far - so I'm just going to jump right in.

The Recipe: Perfect Roast Chicken
Original Recipe Found In: Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals

What You'll Need:

1 X 3.5 Lb Whole Chicken
2 Medium Onions
2 Carrots
2 Stalks Celery
1 Bulb Garlic
1 Lemon
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

The Recipe: Roasted Potatoes, Parsnips, and Carrots
Original Recipe Found In: Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals

What You'll Need:

2.5 Lbs Potatoes
6 Parsnips
6 Carrots
1 Bulb Garlic
3 Sprigs Rosemary

The Recipe: Consistently Good Gravy
Original Recipe Found In: Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals

What You'll Need:

The Veggies From A Roast
1 Tbs. All Purpose Flour
1 Wineglass of White Wine
1 Qt. Chicken Broth

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Next, chop your vegetables into smaller pieces (there is no need to peel them - simply chop them down into smaller sections). Break your bulb of garlic down into cloves and pile them into a large roasting pan. Add you chopped vegetables and drizzle everything with olive oil.

Next, drizzle your chicken with olive oil, making sure the oil covers the top of the bird completely. Think of it as putting sun tan lotion on the chicken. You want 100% coverage. Next, take your lemon and roll it on the counter, apply gentle pressure while doing so. This process actually makes it easier to get juice out of a lemon. Roll the lemon until it becomes softer to the touch. Then you will want to take a sharp knife and poke several holes in the lemon. Finally, take the lemon and place it...well...in the chicken's...posterior cavity. (I'm trying to type this without using the phrase "chicken butt" but it's proving harder than I thought. So yes, take your lemon and stick it in the chicken's butt.) Be sure to get it in the chicken all the way. If the lemon isn't deep enough, the chicken will actually squeeze it out very slowly during cooking. While this is slightly humorous to see, you don't want all of that delicious lemon juice to fall outside of the chicken.

Yes, that's EXACTLY what it looks like

Once the lemon is in the chicken, stuff your sprigs of rosemary in the chicken's cavity as well. Add some rosemary and a good seasoning of salt and pepper to the top of the chicken. Place your chicken atop the vegetables in the roasting pan and then into the oven. Immediately turn the temperature down to 400 degrees and set the timer for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

The chicken is prepped and ready to go 

Now, you can immediately begin on the roasted potatoes, parsnips and carrots recipe. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, wash and peel your potatoes. (As an aside, I wish we had the Rotato [Starfrit 93209 Rotato Express - Electric Peeler] It makes peeling potatoes so much easier and faster than by hand. I've come to the realization that I am NOT a fan of peeling potatoes by hand and fully intend to order that potato peeling masterpiece after my next paycheck.)

Nowhere in the recipe does it state to peel the parsnips. However, in the accompanying pictures in my cookbook - you can see that Jamie's parsnips are very clearly peeled. So, I went ahead and peeled my parsnips as well. I simply used our potato peeler and very quickly (and easily) shaved off the outer skin of the parsnips.

By now, your water should be boiling. Add the potatoes and carrots and allow them to cook for five minutes. After five minutes, add the parsnips as well. Allow all of the veggies to cook for an additional five minutes. (You may have to chop the carrots and parsnips in half to make them fit into the pot). After this time has passed, drain the water from the pot and remove the carrots and parsnips and set them aside. Next, drizzle a little olive oil over the potatoes and vigorously shake them up and down in the pot. (You need to throw them from the bottom of the pot. Don't be timid, get aggressive). Do this for about 30 seconds or until the potatoes begin to look 'fuzzy' on the edges. **

** This process is called "Chuffing" and helps in making a very light and fluffy potato.

Next, break a bulb of garlic down into cloves and place them at the bottom of a medium sized roasting pan. Add two or three lugs of olive oil (listen for the 'lug' sound three times) to the pan. Add three sprigs of rosemary to the bottom of the pan as well (be sure to remove the wooden stems). Next, arrange the carrots, parsnips and potatoes in the pan so they do not overlap. It's important that they don't overlap at all - if they do, you will end up steaming your vegetables rather than roasting them. Finally, add a splash of chicken broth (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan).

Ready for roasting 

By this time, your chicken should have been cooking for about 40 minutes (leaving roughly 30 minutes to go). Place your pan of vegetables in the oven next to your chicken and set a separate timer for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven for a moment and baste it with chicken broth. If your vegetables are looking dry and slightly crispy - add a little extra chicken broth to the pan - this will keep them from burning. Once basted, return the chicken to the oven to finish cooking.

After the full 1 hour and 20 minutes, your chicken will be done. Prepare a couple large strips of aluminum foil and some kitchen towels and remove the chicken from the oven. (Carefully) take the chicken out of the pan and place it in the aluminum foil. Wrap the chicken up good and tight in the foil, and wrap the kitchen towels around this shell. Set aside for the time being.

Now, you can begin to make the gravy. Begin by straining the juices from the pan. Be sure to put them in a large measuring cup or clear bowl and set aside for later. Place your roasting pan on a burner (set to medium heat) and add a large tablespoon of flour. Mix the flour and vegetables together until everything is blended. Next, take a potato masher and squish up all the vegetables into a pulp (don't worry if there are lumps). Add one glass of white wine and stir the mixture together. Follow this by adding the quart of chicken broth. Stir everything together and allow to simmer for about five minutes.

Smashing the veggies

Move everything over to a large pot that has about an inch of boiling water in it. Add the pan of squished veggies - as well as the broth you salvaged from before. (If you're looking to eat healthier, be sure to spoon off the grease and fat from the juices. It should have risen to the top of your measuring cup or bowl by now.)  Bring the mixture to a boil and then allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Once complete - pour the pot into a large serving bowl (be sure to use a strainer to catch the large bits of vegetables).

By this time your veggies should be nice and golden brown. Remove your chicken from its aluminum foil cocoon and carve to your preference.  (I had never really carved a chicken before, and didn't have any clue how to do so. As such, I sort of 'had at it' with our chicken. The result was less 'french restaurant presentation' and more 'a grenade went off inside our chicken'. Oh well, it doesn't really matter what it LOOKS like, it's what it TASTES like that's important.)

I commence hacking at the chicken... 

The Results:

And man oh man, did it TASTE great. The chicken was juicy and full of amazing flavor. The lemon is absorbed into the chicken during cooking to give a fresh, citrus flavor (and aroma) to the entire dish. I simply cannot rave enough about how fantastically this chicken turned out. If you are only going to tackle one of tonight's recipes, be sure it's the chicken. This one is going into our "repeat cookbook" and we will be returning to it in the not-so-distant future.

The roasted vegetables came out very nicely as well. The potatoes ended up crispy on the outside and perfectly fluffy on the inside. The carrots were very flavorful, baked to perfection. Parsnips turned out to be decent as well. They taste like the offspring of a carrot and a sweet potato. They're very light and fluffy, and smell vaguely of an evergreen tree. They are far from the best vegetable I've ever had, but they don't taste like an old sock (like I feared), although I can see why the potato replaced it in the culinary world. Parsnips don't offer anything that a potato doesn't do better.

Finally there was the gravy. I'm not entirely sure what Jamie Oliver is after with this recipe - but he's full of it. It seems like a lot of wasted time and effort for something that A). Doesn't work all that well and B). can be done a lot simpler and better.

The gravy never really thickens up. I added more flour, and eventually turned to cornstarch to thicken the gravy but never ended up with anything thicker than condensed soup. The flavor isn't anything to write home about either. All it ends up tasting like is the chicken broth. As such, you could simply make homemade (chicken broth based) gravy in about 1/2 the time and with two ingredients (chicken broth and a tablespoon of cornstarch). Simply bring a pot of chicken broth (with a tablespoon of cornstarch added) up to a boil and stir. That will provide you with a gravy that is thicker and tastes exactly the same as the overly complicated recipe Jamie is recommending. While it is entirely possible (read: Likely) that I did something wrong for the gravy recipe, I fail to see the reasoning behind adding extra steps and ingredients to something that could be done simpler. This really is the first time that one of Jamie's recipes has disappointed me.

Despite the gravy flop, tonight's dish turned out very well. It was a challenge juggling all of the different dishes, cooking times and processes, but in the end everything turned out superbly. As I mentioned earlier, I cannot recommend the roasted chicken enough. It is easily the best roast chicken I have ever had. Once your done reading this - go to your local grocery store, buy the ingredients and make the chicken for yourself...TONIGHT. It's that good. Trust me, your taste-buds will thank you.

That's all we have for you tonight. Maggie is in the kitchen tomorrow, so be sure to check in around the same time tomorrow night to see her recipe. Thank you once again for spending a little of your evening with us. Until tomorrow,

~ Cheers

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