This week’s recipe: Roast chicken and stuffing, roast vegetables (with super-crunchy potatoes) and steamed greens with basil and parsley.
Hopefully any vegetarian readers have already fled; if not, please be warned: Today’s post is not for you! If that first shot wasn’t enough to put you off, the ones below definitely will! Why don’t you try this blog or this one today instead?
Kin is very eager to practice his food photography and a couple of other people have suggested we include a regular recipe section. I’m not sure how well I’ll manage it; I’m not a trained chef or dietician and I don’t really intend to become a food blogger. That being said, I can boast of one skill that I’m not convinced all food bloggers possess: I am capable of producing decent mails on a daily basis. You probably won’t see perfectly swirled berry tarts or bowls of glossy pasta with one salmon egg and a single piece of cress balanced on top, but you will know that the dishes you see here can be cheaply reproduced and are usually manageable on a weeknight timetable. Also, unlike most food photographers, Kin actually has to EAT the dish once he’s finished photographing it, so he has a vested interest in maintaining flavour, rather than appearance.
Roast chicken is one of my favourite weapons in my personal war against the “real food is expensive” brigade. One small chook with stuffing will give two people a massive dinner, a couple of decently hefty lunches (think sandwiches or chicken salads), wings for snacking and a carcass to make into soup. I defy you to get that out of KFC. Roasting a chicken is also super easy! The only slightly tricky bit is the stuffing, but if you make it the day before, there’s no hassle involved.
Today’s stuffing is a fairly basic one; the main flavours come from onion, bacon and this little champion here:
That’s sage, one of the nicest herbs I know for flavouring meat. With care, it will grow into an attractive silvery-leafed shrub. With abuse, it will grow into stunted, silvery-leafed sticks, but will still survive to flavour your food, no matter how badly you treat it. I like that in a plant. Dried sage is also easy to find in shops and the flavour is decent.
Breadcrumbs provide the bulk of your stuffing; you’ll need about four slices with the crusts cut off (we use wholemeal, but it isn’t important). If you have a food processor, toss your bread in and blitz it to crumbs. If not, cut it bread into the smallest cubes you can. Place it in a bowl, and season with pepper and salt. Add any herbs you fancy finely chopped or processed; tonight our pots have provided parsley, thyme and a little rosemary, but if you don’t have fresh herbs, don’t go out and buy them. A shake from a jar of dried herbs will do nicely.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan (med-high) and drop in about three leaves of sage. Let them frizzle and crisp for a moment, then reduce the heat to medium and toss in one finely chopped brown onion and two – three rashers of bacon, also trimmed and finely chopped. Cook, stirring for three minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent. Dump this into your breadcrumbs and mix it around with a wooden spoon. See if, when you squeeze the mixture in your fist, it keeps its shape. If not, try adding an egg, a little milk or some melted butter to bind it together. Once the mess is moist enough to hold a shape without being sticky, it’s ready to go.
Get your oven preheating to about 190°celsius (a little up or down won’t matter). Give your (thawed) chook a good wash with cold water, including inside the cavity. Dry it off with paper towels or tea towels if you plan to wash them right away. Then, trim off any fat you don’t fancy, shove in your stuffing and secure the cavity with toothpicks. Lightly oil and salt the outside (if you want to) and put it in the oven, breast side down for thirty minutes.
I also include a head of garlic during this first part of the cooking time (garlic needs very little time to roast) for use in soups and sauces through the week. Just stick it in the fridge and it will keep almost forever.
For a weeknight dinner, I don’t do anything very elaborate with the veg; I usually toss them in a small amount of olive oil and season them with garlic powder and chopped rosemary. Ditto the greens; today’s are a combination of broccoli and beans, steamed for two minutes. After two minutes, I add spinach, flat leafed parsley, basil and a tiny wodge of butter and steam the lot for one more minute.
Potatoes, however are a serious matter. For super crunchy spuds without a lot of oil, peel, chop and then par boil them (starting from cold) for ten minutes until the outside is soft. Drain your potatoes, then toss them in their sieve to break up their outsides. Then tumble them in your oil and seasonings.
Put your potatoes and other baking veg on a tray together (tonight we’re having pumpkin, onion, carrot and finger eggplant). Once your chicken has been in the oven for thirty minutes, turn it breast side up and put it on the lower oven shelf, with your tray of vegies on the top shelf. Also take this time to pour off and store and juices collected on the tray; you’ll want them for gravy or soups.
After half an hour, add your soft vegies (this is when I actually add the eggplant), like tomatoes, zucchini or capsicum. Wait another half hour and your dinner is done!
Once you’ve done your prep, this meal will cook quite happily without your supervision. You can have a bath, do some cleaning, entertain guests, whatever you’d like. If you’re the forgetful type, though, make sure you set a timer. You can also be really lazy if you want and just throw in all of your vegies at the one hour mark soft ones included; just don’t blame me if you end up with salsa!
P.S. I tried to keep the word count down, so I might have left something out. If you have any questions, just send me a message and I’ll clear it up.