BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘brine

A Poached (Then Roasted) Chicken in Every Pot

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First poach the whole bird for 10 minutes.

Then roast at 450 degrees, melting the skin and rendering it oh so crispy.

Hearing Michael Ruhlman speak in defense of roasting one’s own whole chicken (a process that surprisingly stillĀ  intimidates a number of time-crunched Americans) at a foodie conference in Portland late last month made me curious to try his (ala Thomas Keller) supposedly fail-safe method for a crispy yet tender bird.

But then Dan came across this hybrid process for “the perfect roast chicken” as a recommended link on the Marginal Revolution blog, beloved by epicurean economists everywhere. So per Felicity Cloake’s advice, I found myself poaching the whole bird for 10 minutes and then firing it at Ruhlman and Keller’s recommended 450 degrees. The poaching method appealed, since I was seeking extra moist breast meat for chicken salad. My mother’s beloved tarragon chicken salad recipe, of course, says to just poach the breasts and cut up that meat. But whole free-range chickens from Draper Valley were on sale, and I’d rather have a carcass to boil down into stock anyway.

A "keeper" chicken salad: poached meat tossed with greek yogurt and mayonnaise, a little champagne vinegar, salt and pepper, rehydrated dried cherries and golden raisins, a minced shallot, two tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, chopped toasted walnuts this time instead of slivered almonds. Yum!

The secret to these roast chicken recipes? Pat the bird dry before roasting, so the skin crisps and doesn’t steam. Ruhlman and Keller forgo basting and/or covering the bird with pats of butter for that reason. I did splash some olive oil on the skin with salt but now I fear that wasn’t necessary. I also could have done a better job trussing, per Keller’s suggestions.

Roasting at 450 was 25 degrees higher than I usually go, and boy did the oven smoke as the dripping grease splattered. Do I need to self-clean my oven after this process? It’s hard to believe Judy Rodgers’ famous recipe from the Zuni Cafe calls for roasting at 480 degrees. My meat was tender, considering I bought a whopping 5.5 pound chicken, nearly double the size the pros recommend for the tenderest meat. But hey, it’s sustainable to bring them up in weight for not much more feed.

And boy was that chicken crisp, yet not 100 percent in a spots, perhaps because of the pre-poaching. But writing this makes me realize the Zuni Cafe recipe may be the way to go, with its dry salt rub in advance, now my favorite way to brine a Thanksgiving turkey. It’s about time I stopped ignoring everyone’s advice. Hey, Michael Ruhlman roasts a chicken every week. It takes practice to refine your technique.

Speaking of technique, for some reason I left covered the carcass I was boiling into stock. Duh. I guess I’ll have to now cook it down so it’s more flavorful for soup. At least I didn’t leave the cooling stock out on the stove overnight, a mistake I’ve made more than once. Stay tuned to see what kind of soup I’ll cook up this week.

Written by baltimoregon

May 3, 2010 at 1:18 am

Brined (Fermented) Dill Pickles: Day One

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Let the brining begin!

Let the brining begin!

What would a girl really need 20 lbs. of cucumbers for?

What would a girl really need 20 lbs. of cucumbers for?

I never thought I’d need 20 lbs. of cucumbers in one sitting. But when you’re brining your own batch, you look for economies of scale. I had a five-gallon food grade salsa bucket. And my recipe called for four pounds of pickling cukes per gallon of your container. So there.

Finding the bumpy, relatively seedless pickling cukes isn’t always easy. Luckily, I could custom-picked ones from Heavenly Harvest Farm just down the road. The farm’s owner and manager were in my master food preserver’s course.

Once you secure your cukes, preparing the bucket for brining is pretty easy. You slice all the blossom ends off the cucumbers, to remove an enzyme that softens them. You make a salt water (with a little vinegar) solution. You throw in heaps of flowering dill heads (or dried seeds), garlic cloves, dried hot red peppers, peppercorns, some pickling spice, whatever spices you like, really. You put a weighted plate in on top, to push down and ensure all the cukes are submerged in brine. Otherwise they could mold and rot. Then you allow the fermenting cukes to steep in a dark place with temperatures no greater than 75 degrees. I’ve got the bucket in our coat closet but will move it to the basement if it heats up again. And I’ll be checking the bucket almost daily, to skim any scum off the top and sample the cukes to taste their progress. After three to four weeks of brining, these girls should be fully fermented. Then I can either refrigerate them or hot water process them in jars to make them shelf stable. Oh, and to keep the cukes crisp, I rolled up a few fistfuls of grape leaves from the neighbors vine and horseradish leaves from the root I planted and stuffed them into the brine. Using chemicals like alum or lime to crisp the pickles kind of scares me.

Use grape and/or horseradish leaves to keep the cukes crisp.

Use grape and/or horseradish leaves to keep the cukes crisp.

Speaking of fermentation, I plan to attend Portland’s first-ever fermentation festival this Thursday. Sandor Ellix Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation and food preservation poster boy, will be speaking there. He is living with AIDS and eats lacto-fermented foods, in part, for their health benefits.

Written by baltimoregon

August 24, 2009 at 1:09 am

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