Monday, December 16, 2013

Roasted Chicken and Toast á la Limoges

I've been thinking about roasting a chicken lately, after stumbling across Thomas Keller's roasted chicken recipe on the interwebs about a week back. As providence would have it, I ran "afowl" (heh, heh) of an interesting idea this weekend at my neighbors' holiday gift exchange party, which kicked this project into gear.

Said neighbors are a couple who live just down the hall in my apartment building, and one half of the couple, Nicolas, is from Limoges, in the Limousin region of France (the other half is Jessica, who hails from Tacoma). Nic mentioned that in Limoges, when they roast a chicken, they put a slice of bread underneath it in the roasting pan to soak up the juices. Which sounded pretty damn good to me...

The recipe for the chicken itself, as noted above, is Keller's, and it's a remarkably simple recipe, with only three ingredients. I will, of course, be sharing it below, but you can find my source material here

First, you'll start with a chicken. I went with a free range fryer (if you go with a roaster, which is a larger, older and tougher bird, you'll probably want to cook it a bit longer than I cooked my fryer) from New Seasons:

For the toast, I went with a baguette, also from New Seasons, and sliced it on the bias. I also dried the slices out in my toaster oven. I should note here that I did not *toast* them, I only dried them out. The reason for this, and also the reason for the dearth of ingredients in Keller's recipe (i.e. no onions, garlic, apple, lemon, etc. stuffed inside the chicken cavity) is to minimize any steam in the oven once the roasting process is underway.

Lay your sliced bread in the roasting pan, underneath the rack:

Now you'll want to get to work on the chicken. Take it out of the fridge well ahead of time to bring it to room temperature, and make sure it's completely dry, both inside and out. Coat the cavity liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Then do the same to both sides of the outside:

Now you'll truss the chicken with some kitchen twine, which is actually pretty easy (refer to link above for instructions):

Preheat your oven to 450 F, place the chicken on the rack in the roasting pan, and once the oven's up to temperature, place the whole thing in and leave it be. After 50 minutes, take it out and check the temperature, in the space between the breast and thigh. If it's 165F, it's done. If not, put it back in until it is. Once it's done, let it sit for at least fifteen minutes before carving. This is what it'll look like:

And here's what the toast itself will look like:

The middle slices were pretty much perfect, and just as Nic described them: At once crispy and moist, and imbued with essence of chicken. The outer slices, however, were a bit dry and didn't soak up much of the chicken drippings. Next time, I'll probably pack them a little closer so that they're all directly underneath the chicken. The bird itself was spot on. The skin was crispy, none of the meat was dry, and the salt and pepper infused into the meat and gave it just enough seasoning.

So, there you have it: Roasted Chicken and Toast á la Limoges. Give it a try! And enjoy...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

I headed to San Francisco last weekend, for the first time believe it or not, and had a remarkable culinary discovery at a place in the inner Richmond called Burma Superstar: Tea leaf salad, which you see above (I didn't get a shot of my own, so I pinched one from Grace Chen of We don't have a Burmese community in Portland, but we have some adventurous Southeast Asian restaurants, so once I got home, I figured I'd be able to find it somewhere around town. I was wrong. Nobody's doing this dish here, that I've yet found, anyway. So I set out to try and recreate what I'd had.

The definitive ingredient in this salad is fermented tea leaves, which due to a general lack of trade between Burma and the U.S., as well as a couple of really sketchy chemicals used in most commercial Burmese preparations, is basically impossible to get here (apparently, the Burma Superstar folks make regular excursions to Burma and mule a bunch of it back). There used to be an importer in London that you could order it from, but that source seems to have since dried up (and who wants to pay $40 in shipping for $2 worth of fermented tea leaves?). Making them myself wasn't really an option, as the process takes months and, presumably, a tropical climate, so the next best alternative was to use pickled tea leaves instead. I found this recipe online, for both the pickled tea leaves and the salad itself, and altered it a bit for my own purposes.

This salad is a two-step process, the first being the pickling and pureeing of the tea leaves. Here's the mise on that:

1 C water
1 C rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp Maggi seasoning
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1/4 C toasted sesame oil
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C green tea leaves (loose, not bagged; I used gunpowder)
1 Tbsp chopped lemongrass

Simmer the tea leaves and lemongrass in the vinegar and water for 30 minutes, then strain them and remove as much of the liquid as possible. I used, appropriately, a tea towel for this purpose:

Next, combine with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. What you'll end up with is a dark and funky paste that looks like this:

The second step of the process is pretty simple, and involves combining your tea leaf paste with the rest of the ingredients. Here's the mise for that:

I head of cabbage, shredded
Tea leaf paste
1 green pepper, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 C sesame seeds
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C fried garlic
3/4 C roasted peanuts
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Combine all of the ingredients except the lemon into a bowl, squeeze the lemon wedges over them, and mix together (it's messy, but it's best to use your hands):

That's pretty much it. This came damn close to what I had in San Francisco, and was delicious. Like, seriously delicious. I'm very happy with the outcome, and I'm looking forward to introducing this dish to friends and relatives at potlucks and barbecues this summer. Serve topped with a few bean sprouts and a healthy dose of finely chopped dried shrimp. And enjoy...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Adventures in Juicing, Part One

So I've been doing some snooping around on the subject of juicing lately, and finally decided to give it a try. After a bit of research into juicers, I landed on the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor (model 67650). I headed over to New Seasons today to pick out some produce, pretty much at random, and came home with kale, parsley, celery, carrots and apples. You can see in the photo above how much the indicated amounts yielded in juice, using standard pint glasses for scale. The juicer handled these quite nicely, and as this site isn't about endorsing any specific products, I'll leave it that.

There are a number of considerations in all of this, of course, first and foremost flavor. How did all of this juice taste? The kale juice tasted a bit like grass clippings; I probably wouldn't drink it on its own. The parsley and celery juice tasted like, well, parsley and celery (one interesting observation here: the parsley juice came out weirdly gelatinous). The carrot juice tasted like carrots, but a little sweeter than in their whole form. The apple juice fell somewhere between cider and filtered juice. Next, I combined them, in the proportions above. Here's what that looked like:

This tasted pretty good. Celery was the dominant flavor (which in my case is a good thing, as I really like the flavor of celery; it's the texture that's always kept me away), the sweetness from the carrots and apples came through pretty nicely, and the vegetal flavors of the kale and parsley rounded it out and were particularly strong on the nose, to put it into nerdy beer/wine tasting terms. The next thing I did was to combine about a third of the pulp back into it, via blender (the rest of the pulp became a snack for the chickens). I had to really liquefy it on the highest setting for about 60 seconds to get a smooth texture. Even with that, it was still a little on the chunky side, but not too bad. The flavor wasn't quite as sweet as the juice alone, and in fact was slightly salty. Still pretty damn good, though. It did separate, quite considerably actually, as I made my way through it. Definitely best drunk from a bottle which you can shake between sips.

The second consideration is nutrition. This is something I've been taking fairly seriously in recent years, as I've passed 40 and my lifestyle remains, shall we say, guided by vices. I've become a big fan of George Mateljan's website, The World's Healthiest Foods, which contains an enormous wealth of information on the nutritional benefits of any number of different foods, and it's been a great help in tailoring my diet (I haven't necessarily slimmed down any, but on balance the food I eat now is way healthier than it was even five years ago). A considerable amount of the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, etc. come out in the juice, and I retained some of the fiber by adding the pulp back in, so I'm pretty happy with the results.

The third consideration is price. I've been drinking a fair amount of juice lately, specifically a combination of Columbia Gorge Organics' VitaSea (their version of Odwalla's green Superfood) their Pomegranite/Blueberry/Cherry, and Knudsen's organic version of V8. My end result today came to roughly 40 ounces, for about $11 worth of produce. The equivalent amount of the juice combination I've been drinking, near as I can estimate, would run about $9. So the price is a bit higher, but I figure it'll come down somewhat once Farmers' Market season rolls around and I don't have to pay retail for all of the ingredients. Plus, I can tailor it to my own preferences, use fresher produce and get an end result that contains proportionately less filler juices. So I'm considering this a success. Stay tuned as I tweak my juicing techniques...