Massages and chicken

The title of this post is actually inspired by an episode of Yan Can Cook that I saw about a million years ago. Not sure why, but the host’s technique when preparing a whole chicken was to massage it. Really. The only thing that didn’t happen to that chicken was a happy ending. Fortunately, that isn’t how we were instructed to prep our chicken in week three of my cooking class.

Also – before I go farther – I need to give credit for the recipes and the instruction I’m receiving to the basics class at Viking in Dallas (on Knox, to be precise). And a special shout-out to Chef Knifong for making week three the best yet as well as having a cool cooking-related last name.

Week three was all about roasting and baking, leaving me with a bellyful of proteins by the time I left class. Menu consisted of:

Sampling of week three eats

-Whole roasted chicken with a pan gravy
-Potato gratin
-Parmesan crusted tilapia
-Oven roasted vegetables
-Prime rib with horseradish cream (this was a demo only – we didn’t cook it ourselves)

Anyway – we broke up into groups again – this time Robin and I were in a group of five. And – props to Robin for being one of two Robins in the group, despite the fact that this drives her to the brink of insanity. First up was to get the chicken prepped and into the oven. Jackie – the chef’s assistant – placed the whole chicken for my group on my board, meaning I got the supreme pleasure of taking out all of the innards (blech) and trimming off the excess fat from around the cavity (double blech…how do plastic surgeons do it??). Bless the thin layer of latex gloves that stayed between my fingers and the actual chicken entrails.

We get the chicken cleaned up and drained, dry him (or her) off, truss,  and then rub it with butter and spices (paprika, salt and pepper). Be sure to put some of those yummy spices into the cavity as well so all parts of the chicken are well seasoned. It was actually pretty damn simple. And here I’ve been scared of preparing whole chicken all this time. Turns out, it’s easier than working with a bird that has already been butchered.

Once the chicken was in the oven, we moved on to the potato gratin. Do yourself a frickin’ favor and prepare this one. It is mind-numbingly easy and tastes so delicious.

POTATO GRATIN
cooking spray
1 clove garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 medium russet potato (10-12 oz)
2 tbsp grated Gruyere cheese

Potato gratin

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan or ramekin with cooking spray and then rub the bottom and sides with the crushed garlic.  Whisk together the cream, egg, salt and pepper. Set aside. Peel the potato and then slice into paper thin slices (you can use a knife, but a mandoline will give you more uniform results). Layer half of the potato slices into your pan or ramekin and then top with half of the egg mixture. Layer in the remaining potatoes and pour the remaining egg mixture over all. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the surface. Bake until potatoes are golden brown on top and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40-45 minutes.

Easy, right?? After the gratin were the oven roasted veggies. Even easier. Chop up some veggies, taking care to make sure all of the pieces are approximately the same size. Chop up some garlic and herbs and mix everything together with a tsp of sugar, some salt and pepper and some olive oil. Spread everything out on a sheet pan and roast in the oven at 400 until golden brown and fork tender. The addition of sugar was the new part for me, honestly. I figured it would help with the caramelization of the pieces, but I didn’t realize how it would change the flavor overall for the better. And – yes, I did an apples to apples (well, carrots to carrots) comparison, because one group didn’t use their sugar and there was a noticeable difference in taste. So there. The final result from my group can be seen as the header of this blog.

I’ll spare you the details of the remaining recipes, but if any of them interest you let me know and I’m happy to share. Either way, I left class yesterday fat and happy, in no small part to the chocolate pot de creme that was left over from a different class. All that was missing was an espresso and a cigarette.

As I sit and write this evening – after a massage and facial earlier today – I sip a 2009 La Joya Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a Chilean white that I picked up from the friendly folks at Kindred Spirits. Golden in color, nicely acidic with bold citrus fruits. Great for drinking while preparing a whole meal of food, as Frank the Tank would say. And, an exceedingly good value at under $15 a bottle. I won’t recommend white wines all that often – so when I do, you can bet that it’s worth a try.

Finally – thanks to Mike for making dinner tonight. Skirt steaks and potatoes done on the grill. After the lesson on grilling next weekend, I should be able to give him a run for his money. Buen provecho!

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