Mixed Roast on Parsnip and Cauliflower Puree

December 7, 2008

The birthday dinner went well and the guests loved the mixed roasts of game birds and chicken. This is possibly my most favorite dish to make and serve when you have a dinner party that is casual. I like to see people tucking in, picking their favorite parts from a large platter nicely stacked with quails, cornish hens and chicken.

Initially, I wanted to include pheasants and forgo the whole idea of a chicken to make this a gamey dinner but I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. So, chicken it is! Although, Cornish hens are technically teenage chickens that are less than 2pounds each. But if you let these Cornish hens free in the wild and have a bunch of hunters hunt for them, they will be labeled as Cornish Game Hens – so they can pass off as game meat as well. Anyway, they tasted great and the quails were nicely gamey but I suspect I needed to marinate the quails more because of it’s texture and less-fat content in its meat. The chicken, well, the chicken tastes like good ol’ chicken.

I got this dinner idea from none other than Mr. Jamie Oliver. In both Jamie in Italy and Jamie at Home cookbooks, he celebrated the idea of having more than one kind of meat for roasting, which is brilliant for Thanksgiving or Christmas or any dinner party. And I concur, why settle for one type of bird when you can have 3 or 5 or 7! He arrange his mixed roasts on a bed of polenta, which I have substituted for parsnips and cauliflower puree because I was serving roasted smashed potatoes as one of my side dishes. The parsnip puree idea was taken from Au Pied de Cochon’s Duck in a Can where the canned ducky goodness is poured over parnip puree covered toasts. I figured, the flavors of parsnips would work terribly well with gamey meats as ducks are rather gamey as well.

I would recommend anyone hosting a dinner party for 7-10 people to try this recipe as it is bound, as Jamie Oliver would say, to make you some very good friends.

Mixed Roast on Parsnips and Cauliflower Puree
6 quails, washed and halved
2 Cornish hens, washed and quartered
1 chicken, washed and cut into 8 pieces (quartered and then detach drumsticks from the thigh and wings from the breasts – this will give you 8 pieces)
10 slices of bacon

Zest from two oranges
Juice from two oranges
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup of Pinot Noir (but you can use other red wines that you like)
2 teaspoon tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Parsnip and Cauliflower Puree
3 cups parsnips, roughly chopped
2 cups cauliflower florets
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Gremolata (for sprinkling)
5 large basil leaves
zest from 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic

The birds
1. Place the birds in a large roasting tray and rub them with salt and pepper. Leave them a aside while you tend to the marinade.
2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade together and mix well. Whisk with a fork or a whisk until it is well emulsified and pour it over the birds.
3. With your hands, and your hands only, rub the marinade over the birds like you are giving them a good massage. And now, let them marinade for at least 2 hours in the fridge.
4. Once they are well marinated, sear the pieces of chicken, Cornish Hens and quails in a hot pan until they are nice brown but do not cook them through. You will do that in the oven – this step is to ensure a nice browning color before roasting ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TIME.

* The last thing you want to do is popping pieces of game birds in in different time intervals, in front of your guests, because they are different in sizes and have different cooking times. So, in browning I can control how much I want my larger birds cooked through so that they cook in the same time as the other smaller birds.

5. After searing the birds, place them back into the same roasting tray (yes with the marinade) and drape them with bacon. You want them to be kind of cooked in a confit style from the bacon fat and also keeps them from drying out. Roast them in the oven at 350F for 70 minutes. Let them rest after roasting for 15 mins before plating.

Parsnip and Cauliflower Puree (this can be made ahead of time)
1. In a pot, add 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, all the cauliflower and parsnips and let it cook for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.
2. Keep 1/4 cup of cooking water and drain the rest. Discard the bay leaves but keep the softened garlic cloves – they are great flavor components.
3. In a blender, put in the cooked cauliflower and parsnips in. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and add the milk and lemon juice. Blend until the puree is smooth, add a bit of the cooking water in to help things move along. Your end product should look like a nice fluffy mash potatoes.

Chop the lemon zest, garlic and basil leaves together until they are finely minced. This adds a great layer of flavor on top of your misto roasto. And need I add that the smell of this is just heavenly? 🙂

This is what I’m talking about…

Assembly: If you remember, we have some nice crispy bacon from roasting the birds now. Chop them up for later.

1. In a large platter, smear a nice layer of parsnips and cauliflower puree to make a bed for the roasties.
2. Sprinkle with some chives (optional) and also halve of the chopped bacon bits.
3. Arrange the quails, Cornish Hens and chicken on the bed of pureed parsnips and cauliflower – arrange them as your see fit because any way you go, it’s going to turn heads when you bring this to the table 🙂
4. Spoon some of the gravy from the roasting pan over the top of the birds for a final glaze and then sprinkle with the rest of the bacon bits and gremolata on top.
5. Serve with love.

The great thing about serving a mixed roast is that the possibilities are endless. You can use any types of game meat on a bed of polenta, parsnips puree or even nice buttery mash potatoes for a one platter meal. Throw in some carrots and vegetables to roast together, if you like. As I said, the possibilities are endless and it is such a crowd pleaser! 🙂

Chicken and Black Fungus Kerabu

September 6, 2008

When you have three bottles of sambal, what do you do? Why, you make kerabu, of course!

Kerabu. What is it?

It’s essentially an orchestra of flavors in the form of a salad that is popular between two neighboring countries – Malaysia and Thailand. Ingredients in kerabu varies but the rule is that it must have a balance of flavors, which is key. The flavors includes sweet, sour, salty and spicy.

Kerabu is popular mainly in the northern states of the Malaysian peninsula where it borders Thailand. As such, the kerabus in Malaysia and Thailand are similar.

What I am making is Chicken and Black Fungus Kerabu; a very common Nyonya salad with a large Thai influence. I have posted before my grandaunty’s recipe for Kerabu Bok Nee in my previous posts before but because I didn’t have some of the ingredients, I did some substitution. After consulting with my dad, it seems that making kerabu largely depends on one’s taste so substitution of ingredients is not uncommon as long as the balance of flavors are there. Bok Nee is the same as Black Fungus, fyi.

Kerabus are notoriously good with rice. If you are eating rice with kerabu, your sense of being full becomes skewed. For some reason, you’re in your second bowl of rice and you feel like you could have another helping! So, beware, foodies, kerabu is very addictive and low in fat but the amount of rice you have with it might negate that fact 🙂

So on to my version of Chicken and Black Fungus Kerabu.

1/8 cup of dried black fungus, rehydrated in cold water for 2 hours
1 whole boneless chicken breast, steamed to cook
Juice of 2-3 limes
1/4 cup of fried crispy shallots (see picture below)
1/2 onion, sliced
2 tablespoon of sambal belachan
2 tablespoon of sugar (start with 1 tbsp first and adjust)
1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon of chopped lemongrass
1 bunch of parsley, chopped (or just put in 1 tbsp of parsley flakes for color)

1. Shred your chicken breast with a fork until it’s comes apart in stringy pieces. Slice your black fungus simply into thick julienne strips – don’t worry if they are not uniform.
2. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. It’s that simple.
5. Now, your kerabu is done and do let it sit for a while (20 mins) to let the flavors marry.

Fried Crispy Shallots

You can keep the kerabu well for up to 4 days in the refridgerator. I realize that after 4 days, it starts to get stale. But up till then, the kerabu tastes better and better before the flavors start breaking down. Don’t ask me why it is the case, it just is! If you should decide to give this Malaysian-Thai style salad a try, I doubt it would last that long in the fridge.
It makes for a great side dish in barbeques.

How do I eat my kerabu? With more sambal of course! Using romaine lettuce it acts like a nice little scoop.


Roastie basics: Getting down and dirty about roasting chicken

August 23, 2008

Roasting a chicken has to be the easiest thing to do in a kitchen. If you are new to cooking or want a fulfilling dinner with under an hour, just get a bird and pop it into the oven. This chicken roast is one of a few of my kitchen ammo whenever guests are arriving in an unexpectedly short period of time. The possibilities from a roast chicken are endless. You can:-

Think about how much time and effort (and money) it will save you from roasting one chicken. If you have a family, say 4-5, roast two chicken and your week’s lunches will be taken care off.

Some of you might cry, “But roast chicken breasts are dry and flavorless, they suck, I only like the thighs“, let me just say that if you try this method of mine, you will never have to deal with dry chicken breasts ever again. There are two ways that I use to make my chicken breast juicy, tender and flavorful. I will divulge the not-so-secret methods soon!

Roasting a chicken need not be a tedious thing – usually, I prepare the bird on the day I need it and it will cook within 45mins – 1hour (depending on the size of the bird). But if you have time, I suggest marinating the whole chicken like how you would with a piece of meat. The flavors are immensely infused into the bird, making you even want to chew off the bone! But if you don’t have time, that’s fine – I didn’t when I made this roast chicken.

How do you make chicken breast juicy, tender and flavorful? There is only one word to it and that is “FAT”. We want to use some fat to cover the chicken breasts so that it doesn’t lose it’s juices during cooking time and at the same time infuse flavor and a bit of fat into the white meat. Chicken breasts have the least fat in the entire bird, which is why dieters love eating chicken breasts as it is healthy and low in fat. But it can also taste like wet cardboard if not prepared properly or is overcooked.

There are two ways to make your chicken’s breast juicy, tender and flavorful:

  1. Separate the skin of the breast with your fingers, making sure to push all the way through to the collar bone of the chicken to make room. Once that is done, push some butter down the space between the skin and the breast meat. If you want, stuff in some sliced garlic too for some flavor. <--- I'm using this method for my chicken recipe.
  2. Wrap yummy bacon around the chicken breast horizontally, from one wing-end to the other. Layer one bacon at a time until the entire breast is cover. Not only will the bacon keep the bird tasty, it will also keep the chicken breast tender, juicy and flavorful. You will also have some bacon crisps at the end of the game. 🙂

Now, let’s get on to my chicken recipe, shall we? I used a 1.5kg chicken for this Lemon Sage Roasted Chicken.

1.5kg chicken
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage (use dried if you don’t have fresh)
1 clove of chopped garlic + 2 whole cloves unpeeled but smashed lightly
1 whole lemon ( rind off + 1 tbsp of lemon juice, and do not throw away the rest)

First, pre-heat your oven to 450 F.

Step 1: Trim your chicken off the excess fats, mostly concentrated around the cavity of the chicken. Rinse your chicken and pat dry with a disposable kitchen towel. Season with some salt and pepper – these are your base seasoning. Remember to season the cavity of the chicken heavily with salt and pepper, it will permeate the flavors from inside out. Separate the skin of the chicken breasts to make room for the butter. Set the chicken aside.

Step 2: Wash your hand clean before proceeding. Done? Good. Take 1/2 cup of soften butter, add a dash of pepper, 2 tablespoons of chopped sage, rind of one lemon, 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Mix well.

Step 3:
Stuff the butter mixture between the breast and the skin of the chicken. Use approximately 4 tbsp worth of lemon sage butter stuffed in between the skin and breasts. Your chicken may look like a product of Frankenstein but like an ugly duckling, it will become a beautiful roast chicken.

Step 4:
Smear the rest of the butter around the chicken and inside the cavity. Pop in the two cloves of smashed garlic, left over lemon into the chicken cavity. Your chicken is now ready to roast.

Tip: Do the whole stuffing and smearing of the butter on the chicken in the pan you’re roasting chicken in – this will save you from doing extra dishes.

Step 5: Pop your chicken into the pre-heated oven at the temperature of 450F for 25 minutes, this ensures a nice kickstart to that golden crisp color of your roasted chicken. And then lower the heat of the oven to 375 F and let the chicken roast for a further 30-40 minutes. Prick the thickest part of the chicken thigh with a skewer and if the juice runs clear, your chicken is done and ready. If not, let it roast for another 15 minutes and do the prickling test again. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes before serving – crucial for a juicy, tender chicken.

You can definitely use other herbs and spices to make your roast chicken. But I happen to be in love with Sage right now so I’m using it on everything. Depending on the size of your chick, you might want to increase your baking time. Usually, even with the biggest chicken 1hr 25mins is as far as you go – and that is if your chicken is the size of a small turkey, mind you.

If you want a one oven meal, pop in some carrots, potatoes, green beans and onions seasoned with some olive oil, salt and pepper into the roasting pan and place the chicken on top of the vegetables to roast. You will have a really flavorful side to go with your roast chicken, with minimal effort!

P.S. If you want some sauce to go with your roasted chicken dinner, just scrape the fond off the pan and add some chicken stock, white wine, more sage and let it simmer down to half. If you want a creamy sauce, add 2 tbsp of cooking cream in. If you want a thicker sauce, either reduce the sauce into the consistency you want or add some corn starch.

Happy Roasting!


Other chicken-related recipes:

Let Them Eat Chicken

July 16, 2008

I am participating in an awareness program that relates to choosing the type of produce and meat you buy. In this case, I am choosing free-range chicken. The “Let them eat chicken” awareness program is organized by Kate, the author of A Merrier World blog – it is all about having better welfare for our chickens.

Now, I have seen TV programs where chickens are squeezed in tight cages made to stay stagnant in a compact world of their own feces. It is not for the faint of the heart and it definitely makes you think twice about ever eating poultry or meat again. It is a cruel condition that no animal should endure, especially when their bodies and livelihood is responsible in nourishing us. A chicken, or any livestock, deserves the same amount of respect and proper treatment as do the rest of us.

So, part of this awareness program is to publish my favorite chicken recipe, where I bought my chicken and how does it taste. Before I go to the latter points, here is one of my favorite chicken recipe: Ayam Masak Merah Madu or Honeyed Red Chicken.

I bought these drumsticks from the farmers’ market at Marche Atwater. It was grain-fed chicken drumsticks in a 6 piece pack – I did not ask the seller if they were from free range chickens but I remember distinctly that they were organic. Surely, that must mean they weren’t injected with chemicals to promote faster growth and had ample space to grow – I am not exactly well versed in the difference between organic and free-range although i think it has to do with the date they mature for the abbatoir. They taste excellent as compared to the cheaper supermarket ones for some reason. The meat is tenderer and sweet, whereas the ones I use to buy from the supermarket had a taste I could not exactly pinpoint. The taste is not gamey, it is quite bland and the meat is not quite as tender. Many people have told me that once I have gone grain-fed, it is hard to go back to *normal* chicken, whatever that means. I have to agree, in respect to taste.

By all means, it is important to know where your food comes from and how it was farmed. In Malaysia, you probably know that kampung chicken is best for boiling soups as they are thought to be better. It is not too far off since these chickens are actually free-range chickens, with no growth inducing chemicals and they run free until maturity, so indeed they are better!

Why is free-range better than standard chicken?

You will have your answer when you check out these links:
The news
The video
The Edinburgh research
The latest research
The survey

Khanom Paeng Na Moo (Thai pork toast)

April 13, 2008

This is an extremely tasty snack that I stumbled upon. I would love to tell you where, if I can only remember where. But Khanom Paeng Na Moo is basically Thai pork mince on toast. It is very similar to the familiar French toast except it’s coated with meat instead of just eggs. What makes this recipe delicious is the crispiness of the pork coating and the soft fluffy center after it is cooked. It’s a perfect balance of flavors and an utter delight to the taste buds 🙂

This is one of the simplest recipe to do and I recommend that you try it for a little snack with some leftover unused minced meat. Or make a batch for entertaining – your guests will be pleased by this easy to eat food. It is also good served in room temperature as well. And I assure you, this recipe takes less than 30 minutes from prep to ready.

What you need for Khanom Paeng Na Moo (Thai pork toast):
(double, triple, quadruple recipe when necessary)

150g of mince pork (or any of your favorite minced meat)
1 egg (use two eggs if you’re tripling/quadrupling your recipe)
2 stalks of spring onion, chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly into a chiffonade
1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch/cornflour
a pinch of chilli powder, more if you want it spicier (optional)
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional, use soy sauce if you have none)
a large pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices of bread

Garnish: Lemon slices

1. Combine all the ingredients together except for the 4 slices of bread. Let it sit for 10 minutes to marinade while you heat a lightly oiled pan under medium heat.

2. Your meat mixture should resemble a thick paste that is easily spreadable. With a spoon, spread 1 spoonful of mixture evenly on each side of the bread and pan fry each side for 3-4 minutes.

3. Repeat for remaining slices of bread. After your Thai pork toast is done, let it cool for 5 minutes before cutting it into bite size piece and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top before serving.

Best eaten with some chilled milk tea OR iced coffee.

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