Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Cider Can Chicken with roasted onions – undignified, but delicious!

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On the booze - literally!
If you are a fan of roast chicken but haven’t yet tried this method, you are in for a real treat.

It is probably one of the most undignified ways of cooking a chicken but it’s a stunner - and perfect in the oven or on the BBQ.  As the cider evaporates, fragrant steam permeates the flesh, keeping it juicy and flavouring it with garlic and whatever herbs you decide to use. I’ve used thyme today but rosemary is good too. Any cider that is left in the can after roasting gets tipped into the roasting tin to blend with the chicken juices for a lazy gravy. Couldn’t be simpler.  

Cider seems only to come in cans of 500mls. Decant the cider into a clean empty 330ml soda or beer can for this dish as they are the ideal size.

To feed four, you will need…
… to preheat the oven to 180˚C (see BBQ note at the end)

100mls of cider
a generous bunch of fresh thyme (or about 6 sprigs of rosemary)
4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 x 1.5kg oven-ready chicken (free-range if your budget allows)
1 teaspoon sea salt
25g butter, melted and cooled
3 onions, peeled, keeping as much of the root intact as possible.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt

1.                  First, make sure the oven shelves are arranged to accommodate a chicken being cooked upright. Using a tin opener, cut the top off a 330ml aluminium beverage can. Handle with care – the cut edge can be very sharp. Pour the cider into the can. Add the sliced garlic and some of the fresh thyme. Place the can in a roasting dish.
2.                  Rub the chicken with the salt, and anoint with the melted butter. Keeping the can upright, insert it into the cavity of the chicken. Use the chicken legs to help balance it upright in the roasting tin. Poke any remaining thyme into the neck of the chicken.

Reminds me of Killiney Beach - brrrrrr
3.                  Place in the preheated oven and roast for an hour (or until cooked through - pierce the thickest part of the thigh and if the juices run clear you are good to go.)
4.                  To prepare the onions, cut each into 6 wedges making sure each wedge has a little bit of root – this helps keep them intact while cooking. Toss them in the olive oil and sprinkle with the pinch of salt. When the chicken has been cooking for half an hour, add the onion wedges to the roasting tin.
5.                  After the cooking time has elapsed, carefully remove the chicken from the oven and cut the skin between the leg joint and the body. If it is still pink, return the chicken to the oven for a further 15 minutes, or until there is no pink remaining.
6.                  Lay the chicken on its back so that any remaining cider spills into the roasting dish and mingles with the chicken juices. Carefully spoon or pour off the liquid into a small saucepan. Cover the chicken and let it ‘relax’ in a warm place for about 10 minutes. This ‘relaxing’ allows the juices which have boiled up to the surface of the meat to redistribute themselves, resulting in a more tender, succulent bird.
7.                  While the chicken is relaxing, gently simmer the saucepan of cider and chicken juices to concentrate the flavour. Transfer to a gravy boat just before serving.

Note: you could substitute beer or white wine for the cider. You could use chicken stock or unsweetened apple juice if you prefer an alcohol-free version.

To BBQ - Prepare the cider can as in step 1. Remove any excess fat from the chicken.  Prepare as in step 2 above but omit the butter and then carefully place the chicken upright on the BBQ and close the lid, taking care not to tip the bird over. Cook for about an hour or until cooked through (as in step 3), checking regularly to make sure it is not burning. Remove very carefully, remembering that there could still be boiling liquid in the cider can, and allow to rest in a warm place before serving.
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Crumpets – in Search of the Hole-y Grail

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Indiana Jones had it easy. To find his Holy Grail, he merely had to deal with rats, fire, gunmen, betrayal and avoid being chopped to bits by a ship’s propeller. Mr Jones would have paled in the face of my mission – to make the Holey Grail of the griddle cake world – the perfect crumpet.
So, what constitutes the perfect crumpet?
According to my true blood English crumpet connoisseur, it must be: “light and fluffy with lots of holes in it, but it has to have a certain chewy bite to it. It is best eaten toasted and dripping with butter, which needs to soak through the holes. The holes are very important.”
Being Irish, perhaps I don’t fully appreciate the finer nuances of this yeasty little devil which is little known in the Emerald Isle. Perhaps it is ignorance that allows me to laugh in the face of such a challenge. Bring it on, I say - oh, and don’t forget the butter!

For 12 – 14 crumpets, enough for 4 – 6 people, you will need...
... crumpet rings*
125g strong white flour
125g plain flour
1 x 7g sachet of quick action dried yeast
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
350mls water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or melted butter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter for greasing the crumpet rings

Place the strong flour, plain flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Heat the water to between 27°C – 35°C. (This is approximately when the water feels neither hot nor cold. Too hot, it will kill the yeast. Too cold, it will just take longer to activate.) Add the olive oil (or melted butter) and vanilla extract to the warm water.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and slowly add the water, incorporating the flour from around the edges, mixing to a thick smooth batter. Cover and leave in a warm place until the surface is covered with little bubbles (about 90 minutes).
Grease the crumpet rings well with butter and place them in a large frying pan over a medium heat - 4 fit snugly in my frying pan so I make them in 3 or 4 batches.
Rub the frying pan with a little butter, just within the area crumpet rings. Wait until the butter has melted and the rings are hot (otherwise the batter will stick horribly and you’ll never want to make crumpets again).
Fill the crumpet rings a little over half way – they’ll rise further as they cook. I use about 60mls of batter per crumpet. Cook gently until the top looks dry and is full of holes - about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the crumpets over, and remove the rings if they will come away easily. Cook the crumpets for a further minute or so, until golden. Traditionally, crumpets are cooked only on one side but this results in a pale unattractive bread.
You can cool them on a wire rack and freeze them at this stage, for later revival in a toaster - which is the preferred manner of many crumpet fanciers. However, I prefer them fresh from the frying pan, smothered in butter - and large doses of an excellent homemade plum jam I was given recently.

*If you don’t have crumpet rings, melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Spoon the batter into the pan to form little cakes – about 2 tablespoons of batter per cake. A crumpet without the support of a crumpet ring is called a pikelet – and is just as good.

Crumpet Connoisseur Verdict:
Light and fluffy? Check!  Lots of holes? Check !  A certain chewy bite? Check !
Would you like another - just to be sure ? Check, check, check !
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