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a culinary lab report

My father has this tradition of sending out a monthly "newsletter" to his far flung friends and relatives. Invariably, this newsletter concentrates on what has happened and where he has travelled, but, it also concentrates on exactly what he ate during his travels. Here's a sample of one of his letters from September of last year (with the names changed to protect the innocent):

On the 6th, we drove up to W.G. on Lake S. with C. & F. to have dinner at the Restaurant V. at the G. Winery. We sat out on the deck, and it was like the heurigen in Vienna, where you sit out among the vines. We got there too late to do any wine tasting, but the sommelier let us taste a Gewurtztraminer and a Merlot, before we "settled" on a couple of blends that he recommended, the Signature, a white, and the Meritage, a red. They have a new chef, and he seems to be trying to make an impression with unusual items. He had frog legs as an appetizer, but we settled on a terrine which had buffalo meat. I had the sword skewer, which had; lamb, pork sausage, buffalo, ostrich, and several other unidentifiable items (roadkill?). The caeser salads did NOT have any "caeser" in them. We drove back down C. & F.'s for some pinochle.
The foodie quality of these newsletters has become something of a good-hearted joke among some members of the family -- including Fiancee S.

At the risk of sounding too much like my father (and getting a gentle ribbing from Fiancee S.), I humbly offer the following entry.

As I mentioned in my entry last Friday, I've been having a jones to roast a chicken for a little while now. I finally got around to doing it on Saturday, and purchased a whole 4.5 lb "Rocky Junior" fryer/roaster that afternoon. I combed over about half a dozen recipes for roast chicken, taken from a variety of sources: my memory of a recipe I saw in a TV lecture given at the Culinary Institute of America, Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food, the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, a beat up 1972 edition of The Joy of Cooking, a copy of The Frugal Gourmet, plus about 2 or 3 other cookbooks Fiancee S. and I inherited from her mother, whose names escape me right now.

Any way, all the recipes turned out to be basically the same:

  • season the inside and the outside of the the bird with spices of your choice, and
  • cook the bird in a 350-375 degree oven at about 20 minutes per pound.

I chose to vary things a bit. Instead of using a rack with my roasting pan, I chose to rest the Rocky Junior on a bed of vegetables (red potatoes, carrots, onions, whole, peeled garlic cloves, and celery) sprinkled with olive oil, fresh ground sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and chopped fresh oregano and rosemary. I seasoned the outside of the bird with the same sea salt-pepper-oregano-rosemary-oil mixture, and stuffed the cavity of the bird with fresh italian parsley. I put a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven to promote an even temperature, and let the bird cook for just over 1.5 hours.

Once it was cooked, I deglazed the roasting pan on top of the stove using some leftover beef stock and some Full Sail beer (that was WAY past its freshness date), plus a splattering of white wine (some Penfold's Australian Chardonnay). I made a roux to thinken the sauce, but didn't prepare enough of it to fully thicken the liquid. I added some cornstarch to finish the thickening... have to remember to make more roux next time. Oh yes, I seasoned the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Overall, this yielded an excellent first effort. The vegetables were delicious. The chicken was very moist and juicy, and quite flavorful when consumed with the seasoned skin. It might have needed another 15 minutes or so in the oven, I don't know. It also could have used some seasoning on the inside to help spread some of that good oregano/rosemary flavor around during cooking. The gravy was good, but I think needed a little better seasoning.

said drgeek on 2004-03-15 at 12:36 p.m.


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