Monday, July 30, 2007
Ever watched the medieval Blackadders with Rowan Atkinson before he sold out and got Mr Beaned? The unforgettable turkey-stuffing by the pestilential Baldrick? This picture makes me think of him. Many of my terrace herbs went inside: thyme, tarragon, fennel. I even put a little basil in, but I was overexcited. I hadn't made roast chicken for so long, and was inspired by Edible Brooklyn, whose recipe uses even more lemon than I do, and that's saying something. My kind of people. Anyway, under and around the boid I put roughcut red onion and shallots, squeezed two lemons over (they said four) and popped it in at 425' (about 210C) for an hour and ignored it, adding a tiny bit of water to the pan so the nice bits getting caramely didn't get charred totally. OH! And I actually put some butter on it, something I never do, because chickens are so fatty and selfbaste anyway (I don't think they were so fat in the days of Edouard de Pomiane [this link is a slightly annoying love-fest tribute to him, but I like his books, with the exception of: The Jews of Poland, which is illuminating about the food and basically anti-Semitic. Reader beware. I admit, when I did read it only two weeks ago, my hair stood on end. At least the book seller had warned me.], and Elizabeth David (she is beyond reproach)...Le President, French butter I get for $2 for a half brick at Sahadi's. Yum.
The darkest bits are the onions and shallots. I deglazed with some Mulderbosch rose I had left (at $10 here it's a steal. Really good rose, too, made from Cab. sauvignon). The chicken reminded me of long-ago days in Bloemfontein when my mom would drive out with me in her little Mini, to pick up two roast chickens for Saturday lunch (I think) from Cathy, a lady who lived on what we called a plot (smaller, more run down and more unorthodox than a farm, on the outskirts of town). They would be warm still, brown-glazed with butter and lemon, and misting up their cellophane covering, and the whole Mini would fill with their delicious scent. And that was the chicken my mom made when she made roast chicken - butter, lemon. It's still my favourite thing in the world.
The other thing I know she's been making lately is chicken soup, to take to sick and sad friends. One very sick friend, flattened by chemo, had been unable to eat anything until he was given some of her soup. Oh dear, I'm sad now. And he ate her soup.
I have started making chicken stock regularly. I went through a phase of deboning chickens and kept their weird, naked-looking carcae (...), then made stock out of them. I also make a salad of poached chicken, and use the broth left from the poaching as stock. There's no comparison with a stock cube. If there is secret to good stock, it's onions and garlic. I like to use three kinds for depth of flavour: in this case, red onion, scallion and garlic. You can use shallots, too. I used whole cloves of garlic, about half a head, slightly squashed with a knife. If you have celery or carrot all the better. Peppercorns, fresh parsley, a bayleaf, maybe thyme. Cover chicken with water and simmer for about an hour. You can then reduce it after you've strained it to concentrate the flavour. For avgolemono soup, to the strained stock add the juice of two lemons and off the heat whisk in about three to four egg yolks (two per person, I'd say): too hot and they will scramble.
Enough about food already. I need to eat.