Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Bird In the Pan

...Is worth two in the stomach. Chickens are strange creatures, having inspired their fair share of terror, culinary and otherwise. But the most infamous of all is, without a doubt, the roast chicken. Everyone's got their favorite. Your grandma, your uncle, your second cousin's uncle's best friend's sister, and probably you. Admit it: we are all obsessive about roast chicken. The skin has to be just so, the meat has to be perfectly done, and of course, there must be a battle to the death over who gets the drumstick. Brine it, bake it, whatever you will. I won't say that this is the single best way to prepare our favorite fowl, but it IS pretty good.
The hardware:
A roasting pan
Your oven
Your favorite meat thermometer. (But since, like me, you probably only own one, it would be your only meat thermometer)
The software:
A roasting chicken (betcha saw that one coming)
One to two medium-sized onions, quartered
Six or seven large carrots, broken
Olive oil
One bay leaf
Before we even start on this controversial topic, I must address the thing that is undoubtedly plaguing your mind: stuffing. "Where is the stuffing?" Well, it's not there! And it'll never be there. Stuffing is a veritable breeding ground for bacteria, and you'll have to sacrifice juicy meat for safe stuffing. It's bad for you, and the bird that it goes into. Bland, rock-hard dryness isn't exactly on my top ten foods list, and it shouldn't be on yours.
1. Kick things off by setting your hot box to 350 degrees fahrenheit. (that's 176.67 for you metric folks) Then, open up your chicken from its plastic cocoon. Like anything that's been shoved into a tiny space and frozen for extended periods of time, it's not gonna be pretty. Let the liquids drain out into the sink, and set the bird on a plastic cutting mat. Odds are, there's going to be a little pack of giblets (that's a funny word. tee hee.) tucked nice and safe up in the cavity, and you don't want those unless you're making soup.
2. With a wad of paper towels, pat your newly-emerged bird dry. It doesn't have to be shriveled up like a raisin, but dry enough that there's no... liquids. Dripping off it. Line the roasting pan with tinfoil, and plop the carrots and onions right on the bottom. This will make a nice nest for the roast, and provide an additional burst of flavor.
3. After placing the fowl in said nest, drizzle with olive oil to aid the browning, and season with salt and pepper. While you're at it, put the bay leaf into the cavity. Stick in the meat thermometer, and tent the whole kit and kaboodle with some more foil. Roast 2-3 hours depending on the size of your bird, checking the temperature every now and then.
Whatever you do: DO NOT trust those little pop-up thermometers! A pop-up thermometer contains a spring, held in place by a temperature-sensitive glue. When the glue reaches a certain temperature, it melts, and the spring pops up. At this point, most manufacturers are confident that the meat will be cooked to a point that is safe to eat, and somewhat edible. Just leave it be until carving time. (early removal results in a spew a juices)
4. When it's done, let rest for 15-30 minutes, and remove the bay leaf. It's given its all, and we don't want it in somebody's meal. Carve, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mind Scrambler

Mmkay. Story time, everyone! Pull out one of those little carpet squares that you sat on in preschool. (What's the point of those little carpet squares anyway? Discuss in the comments.) Now, I have no idea if this is actually true, but it makes a great, totally-related-to-this-blog-well-not-really story. One day, there was a lady walking into a store, searching frantically for "chicken balls." The staff of the store tried to help her, but alas, they could not find any balls of chicken meat. As it turns out, her english was pretty awful, and she was looking for eggs! *cricket sounds*
Yup. She's doing another egg post! Oh, sure. You and every other person in the world think that you know everything there is to know about scrambled eggs. I mean, they're so simple. How could anything as easy as the perfect plate of scrambled require any explanation? Because all too often, germ-fearing cooks toast the poor little chicken balls, and the fearless fighters pour out liquidous plates of straight-up eww. So, in order to help those willing to believe, here is my all-time best method for no-fail eggs. (well, to be honest, it's more of a ratio. but bear with me.)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of milk
Nonstick pan
Silicone spatula
Nonstick spray (or olive oil)
Now, before you say anything, I know that I told you to use nonstick spray on a nonstick pan. And you will. And I also know that some of you might not be familiar with the epic win of the silicone spatula. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of one.
Got it? Good. Onto the prep. 
1. Lightly beat the eggs, then pour in the milk. Whisk until thoroughly combined, so you don't have big globs of white floating in your nice, yellow eggs. 
2. Put your shiny new nonstick pan over low heat, and grease lightly with the aforementioned nonstick spray or oil. Pour in the eggs, and stir constantly with the spatula until they just start to coagulate. What does that mean? It means little egg chunks floating in goo. Yum! :D 
3. Crank up the heat to high, and still stirring constantly, cook until the eggs are all solid, but not quite done.(just a little bit shiny) The trick when cooking any egg or egg product is to pull it right before you think it's done. The magical heat called carryover will take it the rest of the way! 
4. Then, just pour onto a plate and devour! 
I must say, the great thing about this "ratio" is that it's incredibly adaptable. I personally can eat 3 egg at a time. But you can halve, double, or quintuple this recipe depending on how many adoring fans you need to feed. Now, go find me some balls of chicken meat!

In the comments: Discuss the actual purpose of those little carpet squares from preschool. I know most of my readers are older than I am, but I'd bet my blog that you sat on them, too.
Somebody email be a picture of ground chicken meat! I'll put it in the next post, and acknowledge the sender.