Monday, September 28, 2015

The Magic of Slow Roasting Chicken and the beauty of chili and garlic

 The Magic of Slow Roasting Chicken 

and the beauty of Chili and Garlic 

The Roast with Butter 

I am  inspired everyday. Sometimes it can be from a book, sometimes a movie, sometimes from the pages of Vogue or Elle , from icons . If you look around there is inspiration in every nook and cranny of this world.

Anyone who is close to me would know that my favourite way to unwind is to visit the fresh markets. The variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and the array of spices and pulses gets me all excited and then there is the new way to unwind by indulging in some yoga.

Anyway ever since the vegetable vendor I am loyal to taught me to wrap herbs in cloth and then store in the refrigerator I have had fresh green herbs for 2 weeks at a stretch.

Last week I was determined to use the beautiful green rosemary and since it was a mundane weekday I decided to make a roast.

Ripe red chilies  always cheer me up 

There are things that make me happy just by looking at them. It could the seasonal fresh fruits , fresh vegetables but then there are some ingredients which makes me feel extra happy and ripe red chilies remind of a beautiful shade of red lipstick always a sure way to pick up a girl. I did go to the market which is a few seconds away from my home for some chicken when I spotted a few ripe red chilies sticking out from a pile of green chilies. I requested the vegetable seller to pick out the ripe red chilies for me and I immediately knew what I wanted to do with my roast.

One of the reasons I like the Mediterranean coast is because of its wide array of flavours. While Italy can boast of its own unique flavours Moroccan cuisine is much closer to home. The use of cumin and coriander gets me all excited. Anyway I took my recipe's inspiration from the Mediterranean , included a bit of heat from the chili but the flavours as delicious as they were came second to this technique which I finally tried and am sticking to.

About 3 years ago while looking for ideas of roast chicken I had come across this French blog which caught my attention because unlike most recipes for roast chicken it recommended slow roasting the chicken at a low temperature for a long time.

The Roast with Olive Oil and Herbs 

So I finally decided to give it a try. Some of the articles suggested roasting the chicken at 120 C for 3 hours. I gave it a shot at 140 C for 2.5 hours. It was the best roast I have made or had. The breast was at its juicy succulent best and never again am I not slow roasting meat

4 to 5 medium sized cloves of garlic
4 to 5 ripe red chili
5 to 6 stuffed olives
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3/4th tsp roasted ground coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp salt

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Whole chicken with skin (It weighed 1.6 kilogram with feathers) so it would roughly be about 1.2 to 1.3 kilogram when cooking it.

I preheated the oven at 140C for 15 minutes and slow roasted the chicken at 140 C for 2 hours 10 minutes.

Then this other day I had a craving for some buttery chili garlic roast and so here is another way to make hot garlicky roast which is so buttery and for me butter makes everything better

This was even more basic

The chicken with wings was 1.4 kilogram
17gm garlic
40gm butter
7 to 8 ripe red chilies
Salt as per taste

I roasted it at 120C for 3 hours and the result was exceptionally good but quite honestly the chicken was just as succulent when roasted at 140C.

Here are a few tips I most definitely follow when roasting chicken :-

  1. I always wash clean and pat dry chicken with a soft cloth 
  2. Trussing the chicken is important. This helps keep the chicken breast moist 
  3. I always use the dry brine the chicken 
  4. This is a most recent learning and its the holy grail of roasting for me. Always slow roast and the moistness will amaze you. (140C or 120C) 
  5. Rest meat . This is extremely important. 
  6. The dripping that you collect is simply amazing. Use it to make a gravy or keep it and use it for other dishes . If storing it use within 2 days to 3 days. 
  7. I roast the chicken breast down for the first 1 hour and then turn it on one side for 15 minutes each and for the remaining time its breast side up during the last stage of roasting. 
  8. Dont forget to baste the chicken. First use a bit of butter then you will have enough roasting dripping. I use a brush for this. I baste it every 30 minutes for the first 1.5 hours and then every 10 minutes. 
So my final verdict is while butter is always a winner it did not fail this time but the other one can hold its own with the lovely blend of spices and herbs. So frankly speaking I would be recreating both these dishes again and again. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

GT Route at Shiraz's Jameson Inn , Mullickbazaar

GT Route at Shiraz's Jameson Inn, Mullickbazaar 

I have fond memories of my scrap book from school. Those days it was a rage to buy them from the Archies stores all across town and it was a fantastic way to know your classmates and friends. So it would have these questions and one was supposed to fill them out. You were asked about your favourite movie, books etc and of course cuisine and if I take out any of the many many scrap books also known as autograph books the most loved cuisine was usually Mughlai and then came Chinese food. You see Kolkata has maintained  a very long and steady romance with Mughlai food. It is difficult to say exactly when the rich fragrant delicious cuisine entered Bengal to create its own version but the popular belief is that when Nawab Wajid Ali Shah came over from Lucknow along with him came his royal chefs.

What they created was a fantastic version of spicy and delicious food and it soon gained popularity. This was centuries ago.

Anyway there are very few people from Kolkata who would be unaware of the famous Shiraz restaurant at Mallick Bazaar.

Just across the famous outlet of the old Golden Shiraz is Jameson Inn, a part of the Shiraz group.
The restaurant housed in this hotel which was previously known as Dawat e Shiraz  upgraded their menu and given it a complete turnover calling it GT Route now. . While it still retains some of Kolkata's classic Mughlai fare it includes dishes from different regions along the Grand Trunk Road.

Diversity is the spice of life and Kolkatans have long warmed upto diversity in cuisine. Today we no longer simply stick to Chinese , Mughlai or the Kolkatan continental fare .

Chef  Rupam Banik says the spices of this route are mostly similar what changes is the way it is used in the different regions. So while there is the poppy seed chicken 'Murgi Posto' from Bengal which heavily relies of poppy paste , poppy seeds is an ingredient of some of Lucknow's dishes as well only there the amount used is much less and it is usually amalgamated with other spices.

What I did like most is that the menu is very comprehensive. So each dish not only has a description but it mentions the region that it originates from.

I wondered if the spice quotient remains unchanged since in my experience the northern part of our country has a spicier palate when Chef assured me that he has had the freedom to keep it as authentic to the origin of the dish as possible due to the wide variety of dishes which is available so spicy or non spicy there is something for everyone's palate.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart 

If you ask me I would say happiness is subjective. For instance if you ask my husband what happiness means to him he would probably say that he loves going for weekend treks and yes he does it every other weekend no matter where he is. If you ask the same question to my father he would probably say reading a good book, having a 5 course Bengali lunch which includes both fish and mutton and taking a nap and playing the violin.

Happiness in my experience does also keep changing over the years but some things remain constant. For me some time with some of my closest friends over some enjoyable food, some meaningful and meaningless talk and wine or coffee is a consistent source of happiness.

Blogging the way I see it is also an expression of happiness. It doesn't matter why I started blogging at all but within a month of having started a blog I was told I should focus on recipes instead of writing my heart out. That makes zero sense given that I blog because I like expressing myself.

I do also believe in passing off information. For instance when I get a tip for a particular dish and it works well for me I like putting that up on my blog because not only would it help me if I try the dish in the future I would be glad if someone else benefited from it.

I was supposed to meet my aunts and uncles on a warm balmy September afternoon. Of course on such occasions I always try and bake something, a cake, a pie or something else and this time I decided to bake a lemon tart, one which took me a while to master.

Then the plan got cancelled and I had butter , cream , lemon in the pantry which I didn't want to store so I called up one of the besties and when she said that she was free I got down to making the tart.

The first time I had tried this tart I was mighty disappointed. I had followed my favourite chef's recipe to the tee and it had failed miserably. I was heartbroken but then I realized it was the size of my pan which was the problem. In baking precision is of utmost importance. Period.

Sure enough you can throw ingredients in to make a wonderful tasting cake but for traditional bakes precision goes a long way.

Well after that what happened was that I bought a few extra tart pans , turned to my favourite culinary book which kind of solved most of the problems I was having but yet again I wasn't fully satisfied so finally I kind of took half of Raymond Blanc's recipe, half the recipe mentioned in the copy of Larousse Gastronomique that I own and that created something which was perfect for me. Just because its perfect for me doesnt mean that it would be perfect for you so I suggest you create the tart once and then play around a bit.

The tart had a crisp buttery shortcrust base and the filling was just about set and deliciously creamy.

Recipe adapted from Raymond Blanc and Larousse Gastronomique

Makes 8 servings :-

For the shell :-

225gm all purpose flour
110gm chilled cubed unsalted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 large egg
Fat pinch of salt
1 egg white to seal the base

(In case you are using salted butter omit the salt from the recipe)

For the filling :-

3 eggs
2 egg yolks
100ml lemon juice (you may reduce this to 85ml as given in  Blanc's recipe )
Grated zest of two lemon
150gm caster sugar
130ml dairy cream
30gm butter

A 9 inch tart pan

Prepare your tart pan by greasing ti with butter.

Rub the butter in the flour till it becomes a breadcrumb like consistency. Whisk the egg with the sugar and add to the flour butter mixture and quickly knead to create a ball.

Most traditional recipes suggest that you chill the dough wrapped in a cling film and then roll it out after 2 hours. I have always tried that but then I came across a tip on one of the websites. It could be Joe's pastry but I am not sure where the writer suggest rolling out the dough and placing it on the tart shell and chilling it and this works very well for me.

So You roll it out and carefully line the tart pan and trim the edges and press the edge. Use the rolling pin to smoothen the edges and press with a fork so that the dough takes the shape of the pan and is crimped around the edge. Take a fork and create little lined holes all over the base.

Now chill the tart shell in the tar pan for 1 hour to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 160C and blind bake for 10 minutes and then take off the weight and bake for 20 minutes. Now brush the base with the egg white and bake for 2 minutes to 3 minutes.

Let the shell cool down completely. In the meantime melt the butter for the filling and leave aside and then go on to make the filling by whisking the eggs, egg yolks and sugar and slowly add the cream and finally add the butter , keep whisking and add the lemon juice and grated zest.

Now use a double boiler and cook the filling for just a few minutes till it just about begins to thicken. Here timing is everything and it takes a little bit of practice to take it off the heat just in time. Cooked a minute more and the filling curdles so be careful. Keep whisking over the double boiler . Take it off the heat and fill your cooled tart shell with the filling. Preheat oven to 120C for 10 minutes and bake for 25 minutes to 35 minutes.

Let it cool down completely and serve it. If you are living in a tropical country like I do once it cools down completely chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle a bit of caster sugar round the edges and serve.

This one was a hit with every guest whom I served that Sunday.

Tips :-

  1. When you brush the tart with the egg white when its almost baked and then bake it for a few minutes it creates a coat so that the filling doesn't seep through 
  2. Just in case you see the filling curdling while you cook it over a double boiler take it off immediately.. Fill a large container with ice water and whisk over it. 
  3. If overbaked the filling doesn't stay smooth and soft so for that timing is everything and this depends on the one baking the tart. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chicken in Wine Cream Butter Mushroom Sauce

Chicken in Wine Cream Butter Mushroom Sauce 

I don't like competition when it comes to food. For me food symbolizes love, togetherness and a sense of sharing. If I close my eyes and think of the word 'food' what immediately comes to my mind is an old rustic table beatified with a white linen table cloth ,laden with delicious food from the rustic kitchen , friends seated around the table passing the dishes around, laughing and in short making special memories.

The first time I saw one of Raymond Blanc's videos I immediately felt I would love to have him as a teacher. What I liked most was not only did he give valuable tips , he filled the programme with laughter and music. For me its music when a person seems to enjoy what he is doing. I considered him my 'Guru' ever since I made his coffee parfait. It was fantastic and from then on I adore and look upto this one celebrity chef. That was some time ago.

Whenever I feel low I watch one of his videos. In one such video I came across this magnificent chicken dish. Usually when I invite my friends over for a meal I tend to serve red meat  since most of my friends love red meat but the moment I saw the dish being made I knew it would be a star dish. The amalgamation of butter, cream, mushroom and wine seemed a sure shot formula for success.

I kept delaying making it in my kitchen because I felt such a fabulous sounding dish deserves to be shared with friends.

The other factor which drew me to the dish was the technique of poaching the chicken breasts. I personally feel that poaching  is one of the best ways to cook chicken breasts which tends to overcook and become dry very easily.

So when the bestie came over to stay with me I knew it was time I made this fabulous sounding dish.

I do have one of Blanc's cookbooks which has the recipe in it but owning to the fact that I had forgotten to pick up button mushrooms and leeks I did customize it a teeny bit to the ingredients available in my kitchen.

The chicken breast remains juicy, succulent and moist 

The end result was absolutely magnificent. Then a week later I wanted to try the same dish but this time I was missing one of the key ingredients, the wine itself which is when I made a version by myself which was quite fantastic as well. So I am sharing both the recipes the way I made it with wine and without wine.

Recipe  sourced and adapted from Raymond Blanc :-

Version 1 : With wine : The one close to the original recipe 

Serves 2

250gm to 300gm chicken breast (1 whole breast which you shall cut in half before cooking )

80ml white wine
200ml dairy cream (double is preferred but in its absence single will do)
5 to 6 dried mushrooms (Blanc uses morel mushrooms but since thats not easily available in India just use the available dried one)
50gm butter (unsalted is preferred but salted would do)
A sprig of rosemary for garnishing
Salt and pepper as per taste

Onions or leeks to be served with the dish

Version 2 without wine :- 

250gm to 300gm chicken breast (1 whole breast which you shall cut in half before cooking )

100ml chicken stock
200ml dairy cream (double is preferred but in its absence single will do)
5 to 6 dried mushrooms (Blanc uses morel mushrooms but since thats not easily available in India just use the available dried one)
50gm butter (unsalted is preferred but salted would do)
A sprig of rosemary for garnishing
Salt and pepper as per taste
50gm Gouda cheese or any other semi solid cheese of your choice
Onions to be served with the dish
20gm butter

Soak the dried mushrooms in water and leave aside for 1 hour. Squeeze the mushrooms wash thema nd squeeze. Do not throw away the water in which you have soaked the mushrooms. Strain it twice and keep it. Chop the mushrooms

Before you start make sure you remove the chicken flaps from the chicken breast.

Now wash, pat dry and rub freshly crushed pepper and salt on both sides.

For version 1 simmer the wine for a few minutes and keep it aside.

Melt the butter in a pan which just about fits the chicken breasts. Once the butter foams brown the breasts for 1 minute on each side and remove them and leave it aside on a plate.

In the same pan add the mushrooms and stir fry it for a minute and add the reduced wine, 150ml of the mushroom soaked and strained water and cream and then bring it to a simmer. Add the chicken breast and reduce the heat to an absolute minimum . Make sure the chicken breasts are completely immersed. Cook on low heat for 1 minute and take it off the heat cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken on the serving plate . Halve the onions and saute the onions in butter till golden brown . Bring the sauce to a quick boil and pour it over the chicken and serve with the onions.

Version 2 is the same as version 1 except that you do not need to reduce the stock. Just add the stock once you fry the mushrooms and after adding the cream add the cheese. Garnish with the rosemary and serve. I bet it would be the softest chicken breasts that you have served.

Tips :

  1. You must make sure the chicken breast when it is being poached is completely submerged ni the cream based wine liquid else the inside remains uncooked. 
  2. Chicken breast overcooks very easily so timing is everything. 
  3. The pan in which you make the chicken must snugly fit it . If its too big it will overcook. In case the pan is a bit big brown the chicken in it and make the sauce in it but when poaching the chicken transfer to a snugly fitting pan which has enough space so that the liquid covers the chicken. 
  4. Shred the cheese before adding it to the sauce. It melts easily. 
  5. Lastly poaching chicken breasts properly takes some practice. If you haven't poached a chicken before practice poaching chicken in water or chicken stock. Place the chicken breast in a snugly fitted pan and cover with liquid about an inch over the chicken , bring to a boil and immediately switch off the gas cover the pan and leave it for 10 minutes. Once you are confident with poaching chicken  make this dish.