Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What I've been cooking...

Updated, below...

For whatever reason, I'm on a burst of actual cooking lately. Maybe it was the success of last week's turkey? In any case, yesterday I fixed an old standby, pot roast. I've done this before:

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
2. Heat oil or other fat (sometimes I use bacon fat) in a dutch oven.
3. Season chuck roast with plenty of salt and pepper, and dredge in flour.
4. Brown roast on both sides.
5. Cut up celery and carrots, halve a couple of onions. How much? Whatever you like. If you have potatoes or mushrooms, you can throw those in too. (I added some leftover mushrooms this time.)
6. After meat is browned, add a few cups water, or beef or vegetable broth or stock if you had it. Also add a cup or two of wine (red or white; I prefer dry to sweet).
7. Add any other flavors you like. I added some leftover garlic puree I found in the fridge, as well as some red pepper flakes, and a bay leaf.
8. Cover and place in oven.

By the way, this works in a crock pot, but I don't have one, and my counter is crowded enough; so this simply turns my oven into a crock pot.

How long to cook? I cooked it around six hours; I think it might have been better with another hour or two. Also, you can cook it at a higher temperature, but I think it comes out better if you cook it low and slow.

How was it? Really good! I think it will be even better when I have the leftovers later this week.

And then, this morning, I decided to start on a chicken, which I'll cook tomorrow. I decided to brine it, so I washed the bird, and then placed it in the same dutch oven; I boiled some water and coarse salt to dissolve it, along with some ground pepper and red pepper flakes. How much? Whatever you like! I put in about two tablespoons of salt, but you could go more or less. I poured this over the chicken, and added more water, until the chicken was covered by the water. I had a lime that was getting shriveled, so I cut that up and threw it in.

My plan is to let that soak for most of today, then I'll remove the chicken from the brine and let it dry out in the fridge overnight. When it's ready to roast, I'll rub the whole thing in butter and sprinkle it with pepper and salt, and stuff it with cut up lemons and rosemary. Hey! I just got an idea! I'm going to go throw some of the rosemary in the brine; I never use it all anyway! Stay tuned.

Update, 4:25 pm, 11/30/17

Last night I dumped out the brine; I can't remember if I rinsed it too. After drying it off a bit, I put it back in the fridge so the skin could dry out. This morning I got it out and flipped it, so the other side could dry as well.

About 3 pm, I got it out, and as I often do (this is a recipe from the inimitable Fr. Z), I stuffed the bird with rosemary sprigs and a cut up lemon, then rubbed the chicken with butter, then sprinkled generously with salt and pepper. Frequently, however, the chicken is too wet and the butter doesn't spread; that happened this time, despite all; so I added some olive oil.

Here's the chicken ready to go in the oven:

As you can see, there are some lumps of butter that didn't spread; of course that'll melt. You can also see I placed it bottom's up -- i.e., breast down. Later, I'll turn on the broiler and flip it, letting the broiler crisp up the skin on the breast side. I can't say it ends up as crispy and nice as it would otherwise, but it's a nice trade off to get really moist breast meat.

I'm cooking it at about 225 degrees, so this will take longer. The picture doesn't show the thermometer, which I just remembered and went and stuck in the thigh. I'm hoping this will either be finished by 6:30, or else won't finish till 8:30, which is when I come back from Benediction.

Update, 5:53 pm...

Here is the finished chicken! Ecce, pullam! 

I checked it around 5:25 pm, and it the thermometer showed it finished. So I flipped it, and then placed it back in. I had to run out for a few minutes, and I got back around 5:45; at which point I turned on the broiler. After a few minutes, it looked like this, so I pulled it out. I removed the items from the insides and threw them away. The juice -- of which there was a lot -- I poured off into a container to save for later. After cutting myself some pieces, I put the rest away.


It's mighty good. It wasn't salty enough for me, which surprised me. Perhaps I could have used more salt in the brine. Also, it isn't as redolent of rosemary as I thought it might be, given that I put some in the brine; but I didn't break it up too much. Maybe next time, I'll pulverize the rosemary, so more of its goodness migrates via the solution to the muscle fibers of the chicken.

The skin is quite good; as always, the topside skin isn't as crispy as it would be had I cooked it topside from the beginning, but as I said above, it's a fair trade-off. And since I cooked it at a lower temperature, the color wasn't as dark, but it still was reasonably crispy.

And, actually, I think I could have brought it out a bit earlier, but it isn't overcooked. I didn't expect it to finish this early, which makes me think my oven was hotter than I realized.

Just now I polished off the thigh, and it was superb! I'm a thigh man, myself. It's surrounded with a good layer of fat, and has lots of meat but only two bones; so when it's cooked right, the fat melts away, but the meat is so juicy and flavorful. I think it's best meat on a chicken, apart from the "oyster."

So that's the chicken. If you are keeping score, I now have two nice containers of leftovers: pot roast from Monday, and this chicken. I'm almost sorry I'm full, because I can't wait for the leftovers!


rcg said...

This sounds great. Next time, try some sugar or maple syrup in the brine. Sounds crazy but seems to match up pretty well.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Thanks for the idea. Here's my hesitation: as you can see from the update, I ultimately cooked the chicken with lemon, salt, pepper and rosemary. Do you think the sugar would have made it too sweet?

rcg said...

I only add about a half cup or less per gallon of brine. And I forgot to say I use brown sugar. They are as much a flavour as a sweetner. I do use kosher salt, and quite a bit. It does not penetrate the flesh but does the fat in and under the skin. Rinse really well before roasting and the rest of the salt renders out while baking or smoking. Let it bake on a bed of celery, carrots, and parsnips. Save all the veges and rendered fat and blend it up. Store in freezer bags and you have a marvelous instant base for turkey soup.

Would that be allowable for days of abstenance if the meat is strained out?