Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Roast Chicken, or Casserole Magic

To become a master cook and wow your family and guests, all you need is a large (5 liters) cast iron casserole with lid, like this one sold in IKEA.

I think this is the essential and can be the only pot in the kitchen. Because it works for almost any way of cooking: boiling, frying, roasting, name it. It is equally nice for frying eggs, fish or meat, making soups, sources, boiling potatoes, cooking kasha, stews, stuffed vegetables, and of course roast chicken.

Roast chicken is the easiest and fastest in preparation dish to cook. And it is equally nice for every day breakfast, lunch or dinner and for the occasion. It also doesn’t require any attention in the process of cooking.

Recipe #1 (basic)

All is needed:

· 1 prepared cleaned (empty inside) chicken of about 4-6 lb (2-3 kg), better fresh, organic or natural

· Salt (about ½ tsp)

· Pepper (about ½ tsp)

Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Salt and pepper the chicken inside and outside. Place it in the casserole (a little bit oil can be put on the bottom) by the breast up and put the casserole (without lid) in the oven. In 1h30min look at the chicken, if you want it browner, leave it in the oven for another 15-30 min. The chicken is ready!

Recipe #2 (stuffed roast chicken)

Now is the time to improvise and stuff and season the chicken with whatever you want and have, so every time you can prepare a unique roast chicken depending on your mood and occasion.

I like the following mixture as a stuffing (it is lovely for duck, turkey and goose too!):

· 1-2 sliced apples (any sort, sweet or sore, Fuji or Ambrosia is good)

· a half of an orange or one tangerine (optional)

· ½ -1 tbsp nuts, raw, toasted or caramelized (pine nuts, chopped walnuts, pecan, cashew, almond)

· 1 tbsp dry or 3 tbsp fresh berries (cranberry, strawberry, cherry, or other, or mixture) or chopped fruits (apricots, prunes; I do not recommend to hurry experimenting with pineapple, kiwi, lemon and lime – they can ruin everything by softening the meat too much or becoming the prime note in the dish, while the idea to make the chicken the king!)

· ½ tbsp dry poultry seasoning (salt free, The Spice Hunter company makes a good one, it contains basil, rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme and oregano; it can be bought in practically any supermarket) or some of these dry herbs (sage and thyme is especially good for chicken) or some of these fresh (1-2 tbsp) herbs (other herbs and spices can be used as well, but be careful in using something else besides the mentioned six herbs if not sure, because they can work the same way as kiwi or lime since the chicken meat is so tender and its aroma is not very strong)

· Garlic can be added as well (1-3 cloves, finely chopped)

· ¼ tsp salt

Mix everything, and since you don’t know if the whole mixture will fit the chicken, put at the beginning only a portion of the stuffing in a separate dish, so you can add more when necessary and use the rest for eating or serving with the chicken. The issue is that you need to use hands to put the stuffing inside the chicken and if you don’t want to throw out the leftover, don’t touch it by hands after touching the chicken (be afraid of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salmonellosis).

Put the stuffing inside the chicken densely until it fits. Since the chicken will be by the breast up, there is no need to cover or stitch the body cavity.

The chicken can be rubbed additionally to salt and pepper by dry seasoning or a mixture of seasoning with chopped garlic. If fresh herbs are used, it is nice to use a mortar (or a deep dish instead of a mortar and a cap instead of a pestle) to finely mix garlic with fresh herbs. To make the seasoning stick to the chicken skin, put a little bit oil on the hand and rub the chicken before seasoning.

The oven temperature and time is the same as in the Recipe #1.

Recipe #3 (stuffed roast chicken a la Cook's Bible)

Follow the recipe #2, prepare additionally for this recipe in the mortar the mixture of 1 garlic clove, 1tbsp of fresh chopped parsley and 3 tbsp chopped walnuts or other nuts. This mixture needs to be put between the breast meat and skin by loosening the skin from the breast carefully. It is the most difficult part to figure out how to do that.

Roast chicken goes nicely with sweet potato or yam (it can be sliced and roasted in the small oven separately or in the microwave). I served the roast chicken with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa, and we all liked it! It needs about 30 min to cook on a low heat; use 2 caps of water for 1 cap of grain.

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