March 9, 2013 § 4 Comments
I spent sleepless nights working on the itinerary. It is an extensive trip – in my books, at least. Spanning 3 countries for a whole month. One. Whole. Month… with my brother. He and his wife, my sister-in-law will be joining us for the first time. Yes, we’ve done short trips together with the whole family but never one that is complicated. We’re excited, it’s going to be fun, I can feel it, but the way we travel is not exactly how they travel. So, working out an itinerary for the four of us is nerve-racking. Would they mind staying in hostels, share bathrooms, or travel by bus, perhaps? Would they mind splurging on food? Would they like the same food? Because really, food is a fundamental part of our travels and I will eat well in a country known for its exotic flavors – does Morocco sound exciting?
So here they are at my place discussing the trip while the chicken roasts in my oven. Marinated in buttermilk and a handful of fresh herbs overnight, the ambrosial aroma emanating from the kitchen had not only whet our appetites but gradually turned us into attention deficits – it makes it devilishly hard to concentrate when the rooms smells of yummy-ness, yes?
Succulent – crispy skin with “meat falling off the bones” tender, a result of the buttermilk and the glorious herbs. It is the easiest thing to make, really. I had potatoes too, sprinkled with EVOO, salt and pepper then inserted around the chicken. So crisp and tasty.
And with salad greens tossed with lemon vinaigrette, a simple dish of pasta with pesto and tiramisu after, we happily agreed on a travel plan. All is well that ends well.
(adapted from Jude Blereau’s Flattened Buttermilk and Herb Crispy Chicken)
What You Need:
- 1 whole chicken, preferably organic
- 500ml buttermilk (400ml plain yogurt combined with 100 ml milk works well too)
- 4 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs (I often use thyme, parsley, sage and rosemary – whatever is available in the market)
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Potatoes or sweet potatoes, and roughly cut into medium chunks
What You Do:
Cutting the backbone of the chicken allows you to flatten it, and thereby cook faster. For crispier results and even faster cooking, I cut the chicken into pieces. I find this yielded the best result. The method differs slightly.
For whole chicken: lay the breast side down on a chopping board. Cut the backbone (using a kitchen shear is the easiest way to do this). Turn the chicken over and flatten. Combine buttermilk with a handful of herbs and pour over the chicken in a dish. Cover and keep refrigerated for 24 hours.
For chicken pieces: combine buttermilk with 4 tablespoons of herbs and lemon zest. Pour over chicken, cover and keep refrigerated for 24 hours.
Preheat oven 200º C or 180ºC if fan forced.
For whole chicken: prepare the herb mix by mixing the herbs and lemon together. Transfer the chicken to a baking tray. Roughly pat chicken dry but leave some buttermilk on the skin. Gently loosen the skin from the breast and stuff 2/3 of the herb mix under the skin.
For chicken pieces: Transfer chicken pieces to a baking tray. Roughly pat chicken dry but leave some buttermilk on the skin.
For whole and pieces:
Sprinkle the rest of the herb mix on the chicken, with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
Toss the potatoes separately in an olive oil and herbs and scatter on the tray, close to the chicken.
Bake for about 40-60 mins, until the skin is crispy and golden and the juices in the thigh come out clear. If you find the skin burning, reduce the temperature.
Remove from oven and leave to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
I’ll see you in a month or so.
August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
When entertaining a modest sized group, say about 8-12 guests (more than that and I’ll need help in the kitchen), I like serving tapas. Many of the dishes would need very little preparation or cooking. I won’t have to slave it out in the kitchen and guests are given a variety to choose from. Load up on reds and whites and you’re good to go. A fun way to entertain and be entertained, if you ask me.
I’d usually prepare plates of olives, 3-4 kinds of cheese – 1 hard like Manchego and/or a not so hard like Gruyère, a soft cheese like brie, and I usually go for a cream cheese spread like Boursin. These are great to go with Jamon Serrano and sliced baguette. Chorizo, rendered in its own oil, are always present in my table too. Include a few heavy dishes – a pasta salad or a meat dish perhaps – and this takes care of filling up the tummy.
A friend sent me a box of honey dates from the Middle East. A nice snack it makes but I thought these would go better with bacon. Bacon wrapped dates – I once had this in a tapas bar and fell in love with it. Served this as part of my tapas selection recently and my friends loved it too.
This dish can be prepared ahead of time and cooked when guests arrive. The dates that are soaked in honey while easily caramelizes the bacon (so be careful not to burn), gives that added sweet contrast that makes this dish a winner in my books. Sweet, salty with a hint of smoky aroma… Yum!
Bacon Wrapped Dates
What You’ll Need
- Honey dates or dried dates
- Bacon strips
What You Do
- Slice dates lengthwise on one side to remove the pit.
- Fill the empty cavities of the dates with cashews.
- Push the sides together to close the dates up. Wrap a slice of bacon around each date and place them seam side down.
- Heat a small flat pan, preferably cast iron, on medium heat. Place the bacon wrapped dates, seam side down on the pan until the bottoms are brown and the seam is sealed.
- Turn and brown all the other sides. Serve immediately.