Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Frugal Chicken

It looks like March is the month for bringing back a few of the series that had fallen into a bit of neglect here on Robert Frost’s Banjo. Last week we had an installment in the Life of Objects series; this week, we’re posting recipes again for the first time in a while.

& as an added bonus, you get two recipes for the price of one! & you get a slideshow set to music by yours truly to take you thru the recipes step-by-step—it’s kind of like Food Network (& kind of not), right here in blogland.

Both Eberle & I like to cook, & we both do pretty well at it. We’re not, I think, capital “F” foodies—it really wou
ld be hard to be such & live in Indian Valley, ID, because the local stores simply don’t carry the Foodie necessities. Still, under those circumstances, we eat a diet that’s both tasty & healthy.

As those of you who’ve been following the blog for a while know, I have strong latent vegetarian tendencies, tho I’ve never really taken the vegetarian plunge. One thing that would make vegetarianism difficult is that Eberle is the best cook at preparing fowl I’ve ever known. Whether it’s chicken or turkey or Rock Cornish game hens (we didn’t eat our guinea hens when we raised them—they were strictly for grasshopper control), Eberle always prepares the bird in a really delicious way—juicy & savory. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.

So, as Eberle said the other day, “it all started with spider mites.” Yes, spider mites got into the cilantro in Eberle’s winter garden, & she was forced not only to discard all the cilantro but also harvest the basil, which had been unaffected but was in t
he same container. Given that we had a lot of fresh basil that needed to be used quickly, Eberle decided to make her delicious Thai country style curry—Eberle was first inspired to make this dish after a visit to the delightful (if uninspiringly named) Cannon Beach Thai Cuisine last fall.

But in addition to her many other talents & wonderful attributes, Eberle is also very frugal—a good complement to me, as I’ve never really grasped the concept of money in any realistic manner. & that’s why you’re getting two recipes in one.

We start with
a free-range organic chicken, 3.3 lbs. Unfortunately, we can’t buy this at any of the local stores, but as many of you know, I do travel to the “big city” of McCall weekly, & they do stock such items in grocery stores there. For starters, Eberle made a delicious roast chicken, using some techniques she originally learned from a teenager who was obsessed with fine cooking (our friend Michael Richardson), but which she has refined over the years (incorporating some suggestions from the chicken farmer herself, Dani Leone). The ingredients:

1 whole chicken
1 TBSP butter

1 apple
½ onion

(these items are for stuffing the chicken. You can use other items—definitely including garlic—if you’d like)
A stalk of celery (placed around the chicken (also could use for stuffing)
A few sprigs of rosemary & oregano (& thyme if you have it—we didn’t)
2 TBSP (approximately) of orange juice (not from concentrate of course—fresh squeezed is even better!—you also can use cranberry juice as well as a little lime)
1 TBSP (approximately) of rice vinegar
1 tsp (ditto) of balsamic vinegar (or homemade vinegar if you’re lucky enough to have it, as we are thanks to Eberle)

A dash of Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBSP (ditto earlier) of a dark berry jam (e.g., boysenberry or blackberry—we had homemade marionberry)

Rinse the chicken & p
at it dry, & pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breast down in a roasting pan with the butter underneath. Salt & pepper both sides of the chicken. Stuff the chicken with your fruit & vegetables, & place other vegetables around the chicken, along with the herbs. Pour on the orange juice, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar & Worcestershire Sauce, & add dabs of jam around the bird. Then roast the chicken as follows: at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes per pound, plus about 15 minutes to account for the stuffing. In this case, Eberle put the chicken in at 4:15 p.m., & then turned it breast up at 5:10 (after 55 minutes). It’s important to turn the chicken & give it about 40-45 minutes breast up so it’s nice & brown. When the chicken is done, let it rest breast down (that’s right, flip it again) on a plate.

Of course, you need some vegetables with the chicken, & since the oven’s going anyway, why not roast them? In this case, Eberle prepared 3 carrots, a couple stalks of celery, the ½ of the onion, potatoes (all chopped), & a full clove of elephant garlic (you can use regular garlic, & certainly could use other root crop type vegetables if you prefer). Salt & pepper the vegetables after placing them on a large pan, & drizzle them with olive oil until they’re coated. Roast these along with the chicken for about an hour to 75 minutes.

Then, as my old algebra teacher used to say, “the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.” Of course, the vegetables & fruit that were used to stuff & garnish the chicken aren’t for eating, but they should be kept to use in making the broth.

When you’ve recovered from that meal, cut slices from the chicken to be used in the soup later, then cover the chicken carcass & drippings (along with the stuffing, etc.) with water in a large stock pot & simmer for four hours. Remove the chicken carcass, etc., & refrigerate the broth overnight to allow the fat to solidify & be removed from the broth. You can remove this next day with a fork, & now you’re on your way to curry!

Start heating the stock slowly, while preparing a pot of rice. Sauté 1 onion & 1 pepp
er (the latter optional, but why not?) with chili garlic paste (about 1 TBSP) & Thai red curry paste (about 2 TBSP) & a pinch of sugar. Add the onions & pepper to the stock, & steam vegetables of your choice (in this case, broccoli & carrots)—don’t overdo them! Place the warm rice, vegetables, fresh basil (that’s where the basil comes in) & chicken slices in bowls & pour the broth over them. & now you can eat that delicious & warming curry.

The music behind the slideshow is a piece I composed for
Moominpappa at Sea. It’s a bit of a whimsy in a way—I took a well-known classical guitar idea & played around with it on a baritone uke. In the theatrical production this was used as “theme” for the Moomintroll family. Eberle & I also recorded a version of the song with baritone uke & marimba, but that wasn’t long enough for the slideshow. Enjoy!


  1. Well! Now I have to add that I'll be coming back for your recipes as well. I am (at least I'm told) a pretty good cook myself. We love spices and delicate flavours as well and I love to cook by intuition - adding a bit of this and that as I go.

    These recipes read quite easy to pull off and they sound delicious! Curry is one of our favourites.

    I have to admit I kept saying to myself "where's the basil"? I even went back and reread the beginning to see if I'd missed something.

    I love how you saved the chicken remnants for the soup. We are very frugal in this house as well and we lean towards vegetarianism - do not eat any red meat or meat from anything that has 4 legs really - especially veal!

    We DO eat fowl and fish. So, this is right up our alley.

    Thank you!


  2. Hi Kat-- glad you enjoyed it. There are several other recipes under the "recipe" label at the bottom of the left hand frame.

    We don't eat very much of the "four-legged" variety-- definitely not veal-- but I do have a fondness for good sausage & bacon; otherwise, it's pretty much poultry when we do eat meat (pretty rarely-- mostly vegetarian, with lots of beans)-- we really only eat fish when we're near the ocean (an odd prediliction on my part that has a very long story behind it).

  3. Now, how fun was that? Kudos on your first cooking show! It was a roaring success. The background music was a lovely touch. :^)

  4. Thanks Willow: I always enjoy putting those slideshows together, but that one was particularly fun. So glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Oh, yum. Now I know what our first dinners will be when we get back home. Curry is our official family favourite.

  6. Sandra: Yes, I could eat one form of curry or another a lot.


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