Can You Hear Me Now? {Garlic Ginger Chicken with Brussels Sprouts}

Remember the Telephone Game from when we were kids?  The one where a bunch of people sit in a circle, and one person starts by whispering a message into the ear of their neighbor, and that person turns and whispers (what is supposed to be) the same message into their neighbor’s ear, and so on and so forth until the message comes back around to the first person?  And, inevitably, the message has become something completely different from what it started out as?chicken1

Well, this is that game, only in food blog form.  Like a bunch of us are standing in a globe-spanning circle connected by the interwebs, and we’re passing a roast chicken recipe from blog to blog, waiting to see how it changes and evolves as each person puts their own spin on it.

Which is, if you really think about it, what makes food writing/blogging so interesting and, dare I say it, controversial.  There are countless arguments back and forth over what constitutes an “original” recipe, what constitutes plagiarism in recipes, and what can and cannot be copyrighted when it comes to recipes.

Diane Jacob, in a March 17, 2010 post on her Will Write for Food blog, writes that “it’s not … legal to copy a recipe verbatim and give credit, unless you have permission from the publisher, let alone change a few things but not enough and not give credit.”  And yet, time and again, you see people copying recipes out of cookbooks and publishing them on their blogs (with or without credit), blind to the fact that they are breaking any rules, let alone being deviant enough to actually break a law.  Intellectual property is a complicated and mysterious thing.  I’ve even done it myself, before I knew what the rules actually were.chicken3

Even more complicated is what constitutes “adapting” a recipe.  The generally accepted standard is that if you change three things in a recipe, then you can call it yours.  This has proven to be a gray area for some folks, though.  I think it’s always a good idea to credit the original source, just to be on the safe side.  David Lebovitz gives some great tips on recipe attribution in a 2009 post on the Food Blog Alliance site.

All of that being said, it’s rare that I follow a recipe word for word.  One of my favorite things about cooking is that I can be creative – not constrained by exact measurements and specific ingredients.  I see recipes more as guidelines than as hard and fast rules.  We all know that rules are made to be broken anyway, right?chicken2

The originator of this roast chicken telephone message was Sheri Castle, a potential food blogger who received a recipe to adapt from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (with their permission, I’m assuming).  Sheri created a blog just for this recipe, admitting that she’s “not a blogger,”  just “blog-curious.”  Her plan was to attend the 3rd Annual FoodBlogSouth conference in Birmingham in January to learn more about the craft.  She, like myself and at least 13 other participants, signed up for this recipe telephone game, the results of which will be used in a session at the conference conducted by Cynthia Graubart.  Sheri’s interpretation of the original recipe  can be found here.  I guess in this instance, the goal of the game is to change the message as much as possible, rather than the other way around.  Below is my version of Sheri’s version – 2 degrees of Roast Chicken, so to speak.  chicken5

Roasted Garlic Ginger Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

Oven-roasted chicken is the perfect canvas for being creative in the kitchen.  There are so many roasting techniques, flavor combinations and accompanying vegetables, the possibilities are nearly endless.  For many years I feared the roast chicken, having never found a technique that suited my last-minute lifestyle.  In my effort to get dinner on the table for my family on a busy weeknight, I would sometimes end up with underdone birds.  More often than not, though, I’d pull them from the oven dry and flavorless.

Recently I discovered the cast-iron cooking method, and my life has never been the same.  There’s just something about preheating that cast-iron skillet – getting it good and smoking hot – that really enhances the flavor of the bird and speeds the cooking process along.

This time around, I decided to add some Asian flavors to the mix.  Garlic and ginger combine with scallions, oranges and soy sauce to create a sweet-salty flavor combination.  The marinated chicken nests atop a bed of Brussels sprouts, infusing the tiny cabbages with it’s savory juices.  The chicken comes out with golden crispy skin, and the sprouts are tender and caramelized, bursting with deep umami flavor.

Prep time: 1-24 hours

Cook time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 3-4 lb. roasting chicken
  • 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • zest from 2 oranges
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 scallions, green parts only, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 Tablespoon neutral cooking oil (again, I used grapeseed)chicken6

Begin by patting the chicken dry with paper towels and removing any extra parts (like the neck, heart and gizzards) that might be in the cavity.  Place the chicken in a zip-top bag.  Combine the 1/4 cup oil, soy sauce, orange juice, zest, ginger, garlic, scallions and black pepper and pour into the bag, evenly coating the chicken.  Zip the bag closed, squeezing out as much air as possible as you go.  Massage the chicken a bit, making an effort to get the marinade all over the bird.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, but up to 24 hours (the longer the better, really).

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook the chicken, place a large iron skillet on the lowest rack in your oven and preheat the oven to 425F.  Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator.  Toss the halved Brussels sprouts with 1 Tablespoon of oil.  Once the oven has preheated, and the skillet is hot, remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface.  Pour the Brussels sprouts into the hot pan and spread them evenly across the bottom.  Remove the chicken from the bag, scraping the excess marinade off as you do.  Place the chicken, breast side up, atop the sprouts and return the pan to the oven.  Roast for 45 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165F.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with accompanying Brussels sprouts on a bed of steamed rice.  Drizzle with any excess pan juices.  Enjoy!

Where Have You Been All My Life? {Cast Iron Roast Chicken}

Kids, I’ve had a revelation.  An absolute epiphany.

I’ve seen the light.

Today, I discovered the secret to fast, perfectly roasted chicken.

Two and a half  years into this blogging experience, and I’ve finally found a roast chicken recipe I feel confident sharing.  That just seems wrong somehow.

Do you ever feel like you’re doing things all wrong?  Swimming upstream?  Trying to come in through the out door?

That’s the way it’s been with me and roast chicken.  Try as I might over the years, I’ve never been comfortable with cooking a whole chicken in the oven.  I’ve tried a multitude of techniques – high-heat roasting, low-heat roasting, splitting and splaying, with vegetables, without vegetables, with butter and herbs under the skin, stuffed with citrus and herbs.  Sometimes with success, but most often I’d end up either overcooking or undercooking the poor bird (neither of which is desirable).   I really thought I’d tried just about everything.

Well, almost everything.  Yesterday afternoon I decided to do something I should have done a long time ago.  I asked myself “what would Bittman do?”

I had a 3-4 lb. chicken in the fridge that I needed to get prepped and cooked in under an hour, so  I turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.  And lo and behold – there it was. A method I hadn’t tried before, and an intriguing one at that.

Maybe you’ve seen this before.  After discovering how easy it was, I did a little online search to see if maybe I’d just been living under a rock.  As it turns out, this method (or a similar one) has been featured here, here and here.  So yes, under a rock I have been.  But no more.

Now I’m enlightened.

And so, my friends, are you.  Grab your cast iron skillets and go forth and roast some chicken.  And rejoice.

Cast Iron Roast Chicken

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

prep time 10 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 3-4 lb. chicken
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality paprika*
  • salt and pepper
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425F**.
  2. Place your cast iron skillet on a low rack  in the oven while it preheats.
  3. Remove your chicken from the packaging and pat it dry with a paper towel (if there’s a packet of parts in the cavity, be sure to remove that, too).
  4. Combine the olive oil and paprika in a small bowl, and rub it all over the chicken – get some inside the cavity as well.
  5. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  6. Once the oven is good and hot (and the skillet, too), transfer the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet.
  7. Let roast at 425F for 45 minutes, or until the meat registers 150-155F on a meat thermometer (it will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven).
  8. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.
  9. Enjoy!

*You can use pretty much any seasonings you want here.  The paprika is nice, but you could also use garlic and herbs, or lemon and herbs, or go a more Latin route and use cumin and chili powder, or even Asian with soy sauce and ginger.  Get creative.  What’s important here is the technique.  

**Bittman recommends a temperature of 450F, and some of the other recipes I’ve seen call for 475F.  I did mine at 425F, and it was perfectly done after 45 minutes.  Sometimes I think my oven runs hot, though, so there’s that.  If you do it at one of the higher temperatures, check it after 35 minutes, just to be sure it’s not getting to dried out.

Student | Teacher | Cook: {Viking Cooking School and Fried Chicken}

On Saturday morning, I was a student.

I had been invited by the General Manager of our local Viking store to come take a complimentary class and write about it.  I chose Saturday’s class from their menu of choices for one reason and one reason only: fried chicken.

The title of the class was Southern Specialties from the Hit Movie The Help.  The class included instruction in making macaroni and cheese, slow-cooked greens, biscuits, cornbread and fried chicken.

Fried Chicken.

My dark, closeted secret: I’m a southern girl who can’t fry chicken. I’m surprised I found a husband.

I knew this would be the ultimate test of a cooking school and its Chef Instructor.  If they could teach me to successfully fry chicken, it would be a miracle.

To be fair, it wasn’t just about the chicken.  I mean, I’ve made my fair share of macaroni and cheese, greens and biscuits and cornbread, so these things weren’t really new to me. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn a thing or two, though.

For instance – to add flavor to your cooked pasta, add whole garlic cloves to the pasta water.  Simple, but I probably would never have thought to do something like that.  Chef said that sometimes he adds other herbs and spices too – whatever tickles your fancy.  Genius.

These classes are for cooks of all skill levels.  We began with some basic knife skills, learning the proper way to hold a knife and how to mince garlic and properly dice an onion. We learned how to strip greens from their stems and clean them in a sink-full of water.  We learned how to make the lightest, fluffiest drop-style biscuits I’ve ever had.

I still prefer a rolled biscuit, because that’s what I grew up with, but these were really remarkable.

And the chicken.  That ever-elusive Sunday dinner staple.  That’s what I went to conquer.

The chicken had marinated overnight in a mixture of buttermilk, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Chef had members of the class put together a mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, cornstarch, salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika.  Then we each took a turn dredging the marinated chicken in the flour mixture.  The key, he said, to crispy fried chicken was to allow the chicken to rest after the flour dredge, and making sure that the oil is the right temperature.

We pan-fried the chicken in a cast-iron skillet using vegetable shortening. I was admittedly not thrilled about using hydrogenated vegetable shortening, but as Chef said, this isn’t exactly health food.  We didn’t use a deep-fry thermometer, relying solely on Chef’s knowledge of “what the bubbles should look like” to tell us whether the oil was at the right temperature.  I got a pretty good feel for what we were looking for – small, relatively fast moving bubbles concentrated around the outside of the chicken pieces.  If they slowed down, or became too small, the oil was too cool – if they got bigger and faster, it was too hot.  The key is to not cook it too fast – you don’t want the outside to get brown before the inside is done. Too slow, though, and you end up with a greasy mess.

After watching and participating in three batches of fried chicken, I felt pretty good about what I’d learned.

I tell you what – food that you’ve had a hand in making tastes pretty darn good.  And food that’s part of a group effort?  Tastes even better.  When we saw the feast that we’d prepared, the five of us and Chef, we were pretty proud.

And when we bellied up to the bar to enjoy the fruits of our labor?  Silence.  Not a sound save that of forks and knives on plates.  And the occasional satisfied “hmm…”  This was good food.  And the chicken?  Some of the best I’ve had.  This is the kind of food you want to share with people, even a group of strangers.  We were wives, mothers, husbands, friends.  Most of us were from the south, but one of us hailed from New York.  Some of us cooked regularly for our families, others rarely set foot in the kitchen.  But we all were there to learn.  And we all looked forward to sharing what we learned with friends and family.

I headed home satisfied.  I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some buttermilk and chicken.  I was going to fry up a mess of chicken for Sunday dinner the next day, come hell or high water.

__________________________________________

On Sunday morning, as I stood in my kitchen, I was a teacher.

My six-year-old son stood next to me on a stepstool, carefully pouring pre-measured ingredients into a mixing bowl.  We were making pancakes.

He had requested them for breakfast the minute I stumbled out of bed, and in a sleep-induced moment of parental neglect, I shot back “are you going to make them?”

Mother of the year, right here.

He looked at me and replied, “but I don’t know how.”

A few minutes later, after I’d had a moment to collect myself (and had fortified myself with some strong black coffee), I asked him if he’d like to help me make the pancakes.  His face lit up like a candle, and he rushed to the kitchen to get started.  He was impatient as I gathered ingredients – flour, oats, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, vanilla from the pantry; sour cream, milk, eggs from the fridge.  By the time I had everything laid out on the counter, measuring tools included, he was practically jumping out of his skin.  I carefully measured each ingredient, handing the cups and spoons over to him so that he could put everything in the mixing bowl.  I then let him whisk it all together.  It was a messy process, but he was so proud of his accomplishment.

He asked if he could help me ladle the pancakes onto the griddle, but when he felt the heat radiating from the surface of the appliance, he became reticent.  He stood back and watched as I measured them out into neat little rounds, and again as I flipped the first batch.  After that he was off to conquer imaginary bad guys, quickly moving on to the next thing on his to-do list for the day.  I was left to finish the pancakes on my own.

Even though it was the same pancake recipe that I’ve made for years, it somehow tasted better because of his hand in the process.  And I felt good about including him, passing on some of my love of cooking to him.

_______________________________________

On Sunday afternoon, I was a cook.  I took the things I’d learned in class the day before, and I applied them to my home kitchen.  I had put the chicken in to marinate the night before, so it was all ready to go by Sunday afternoon.

I opted to fry in a mixture of expeller-pressed coconut oil and non-hydrogenated palm kernel oil.  I realize that this is not health food, but I just couldn’t bring myself to use hydrogenated shortening.  As you can see in the photo above, I had some issues with the oil foaming during the frying process.  This did not seem to inhibit a successful outcome, however.

It was crispy on the outside and moist and flavorful on the inside.  The coconut oil added a bit of extra flavor, but not enough to really be distracting.  If you didn’t know that it was there, I don’t think you could identify it as coconut.  It’s just a hint of sweetness in the background.  It played nicely against the heat from the cayenne and black pepper.

And I can now say that I have successfully learned how to fry chicken, thanks to Chef Shea and the Viking Cooking School.

As confident as I am in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn.  I hope I never forget that.

As much as I enjoy being in the kitchen, it should never be at the expense of my family.  I hope I never forget that.

As much as  I love to cook, it wouldn’t mean nearly as much if I didn’t have people I cared about to share it with.  I hope I never forget that.

Southern Fried Chicken (adapted from Viking Cooking Schools’ recipe – my notes in italics)

prep time: 10 minutes

marinade time: 24 hours

cook time: 20-30 minutes

yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used low-fat because it’s all I could find – they suggest full-fat)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt (I used two cloves fresh garlic, minced)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4-lb) fryer (preferably skin-on) cut into 8 pieces (I used a pre-portioned griller pack from the grocery store that contained 4 legs and two breast halves, which I then cut in half again to make 4 small breast pieces)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste (I used the full 2 teaspoons, and it wasn’t too spicy for my kids)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • healthy pinch of kosher salt
  • 24 ounces vegetable shortening (such as Crisco®) for frying (I used 12 ounces of coconut oil and 12 ounces of palm kernel oil)
  1. For the chicken: whisk together the buttermilk, garlic, salt and pepper.  Place the chicken pieces in the buttermilk mixture and completely submerge.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cayenne, paprika, black pepper and salt; place in a large plastic bag.  Lift a piece of the chicken out of the buttermilk mixture, allowing the excess buttermilk to drain off. Add one piece of chicken at the time to the bag, and shake to thoroughly coat.  Place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to rest until ready to fry.  Continue with the remaining pieces of chicken.
  3. Spoon the shortening into a large, deep cast-iron skillet or dutch oven.  Place over medium-high heat until the melted shortening regiserts 350F on a deep-fry thermometer.  The fat should come halfway up the sides of the pan. (Note: an even oil temperature is key to the success of this recipe; a deep-fry thermometer should be kept in the pot at all times. Make sure the temperature never drops below 325F or rises above 365F during the cooking process. As I stated – we did not use a thermometer, but I do recommend it the first few times you try this recipe).
  4. Once the fat has come to 350F, fry the chicken in batches, skin side down, until golden brown and cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes. (Note: do not overcrowd the pan, or the chicken will not cook evenly).  Turn and fry until golden brown on the second side, about 6 to 8 minutes more.  Between batches, use a skimmer to remove all crispy bits floating in the oil.  (Note: if chicken is brown but not quite cooked through, place in a 350F oven to finish the cooking process, about 5 to 10 minutes).  Cook white meat to an internal temperature of 165F, and dark meat to an internal temperature of 175F.
  5. Enjoy!

Disclaimer:  I was invited to take this class for free.  The opinions in this post are my own.  Click here to see a selection of cooking classes offered through Viking Cooking School Atlanta.