Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Perfect Roast Chicken

As the weather gets more blustery, and the economy more crappy, it's time for the ultimate in comfort foods: the Roast Chicken. For me there is nothing more satisfying than a good roast chicken when all you want to do is build a fire and curl up with a good book (or a good cable TV show). Yet, as many chefs will tell you, there are easier kitchen tricks than roasting a perfect bird, it can be a challenge to get the skin crisp while keeping the meat juicy. Here's my version:

Roast Chicken

Serves 6-8 (Entrée Portions)
Fresh Chicken, Seasoned with Kosher Salt/Fresh Pepper
& Fresh Thyme and Parsley Sprig under skin 3# Whole
Kosher Salt 2 Teaspoons Appx.
Freshly Ground Black Pepper As Needed

Preparation Procedure-
Preheat oven to 475˚. Rinse chicken with cold water and THOROUGHLY dry with paper towel. Put a thyme sprig under skin of each breast section. Season completely with salt and fresh black pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes if time allows.

Preheat a heavy bottomed skillet or roasting pan on your stove and heat until hot. Wipe and moisture from chicken and set it breast side up in hot pan. Place in center of hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the chickens onto breasts and roast another 30 minutes. Check to see if chickens are cooked, using thermometer or twisting leg sections (turn easily=done). Remove chicken to a plate and allow to cool. Drain juices from roasting into a clear measuring cup and refrigerate. Place skillet on stove and deglaze with water over medium high heat. Strain and mix with juices from roasting (minus the fat). Refrigerate for 10 days or freeze for 3 months.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Great Seafood in Athens

You would think getting incredible seafood in a huge Mediterranean city like Athens, Greece would be like getting a good steak in Nebraska. Well it's not as easy as you'd think (in either place for that matter). So after quite a few mediocre meals over several days, I had all but given up on the prospect of finding a top-notch seafood joint in this massive city (what would Homer have thought?). Alas, on my last day in country I found an outstanding, mom-n-pop restaurant that had relocated to Athens from their original location on Paros. The chef/owner Argyro (what a great Greek name!) creates incredible dishes using local fish like sting ray, octopus and langoustine. Finally a seafood venue worthy of the culture that would launched a thousand ships for a pretty face.

Fokilidou 15 and Voukourestiou

My Big Fat Greek Kitchen

Every time I travel abroad I’m reminded of just how cross-cultural our world has become. While there are certainly unique cultural experiences everywhere, if you want a consistent time as a world traveler it’s remarkably easy today. I’m posting this just after delivering an interactive culinary challenge I developed call Sushi Factory (SF) for a Europe-based multinational corporation meeting in Athens, Greece. Here's a brief synopsis of sushi factory, but really all you need to know is it was an American teaching a bunch of European executives about making sushi while at a hotel in Greece (it just doesn't get more multi-cultural than that):

"The Sushi Factory is an interactive culinary challenge that engages participants in a dynamic and enjoyable sushi making game that not only facilitates communication and networking, but also produces dinner.
The objectives of Sushi Factory include: managing the effects of quantity on quality in production, improving problem solving skills in a fluid environment, building community and fostering camaraderie among a diverse corporate team, and having fun.

I was reminded of this commonality while prepping for the SF in the kitchen of the hotel where the program was to take place. One of the fun parts of being a traveling chef is that I’ve had the pleasure of working in kitchens all over the world, to seeing each facility's quirks and idiosyncracies but also to see how similar they all are. The kitchens look the same, a lot of shiny stainless steel where every inch is occupied with equipment or storage. The kitchen crew look like your standard American chefs: young people with tattoos, a little scruff and a sound curiosity over who the hell I was and what was I doing in their kitchen. The music of choice while I was there was Greenday, just what we would listen to in US kitchens (albeit back in 1999). Even the executive chef fit the role, with a thick beard and deep circles under his eyes, it reminded me of my days running kitchens while propped-up on caffeine and testosterone. The chef and his crew were a great help to me, they even went so far as to offer to make my sushi rice for me. Possibly the hardest task in all of sushi making, I'll admit I was hesitant to pass on this responsibility to one of their kitchen brigade. However, not wanting to insult my European hosts I ultimately relented. (How was I to know that Greeks liked their sushi rice super soft?) All in all it was a great day in the kitchen, I'm hoping that my next culinary wandering will find me delivering my burrito kiosk program in Bangkok for a bunch of South Africans. Eat your heart out Benetton!

Here's my recipe for sushi rice. I don't recommend cooking it a la Grecque.

Sushi Rice

Quantity Produced: Makes 10 Cups

Medium Grain Rice (Calrose/Nishiki) 4 Cups
Cold Water As Needed (a little more than four cups)
Rice Vinegar ¾ Cup
Sugar 3 Tablespoons
Salt 1 ½ Teaspoons


Sushi Vinegar ¾ Cup

Preparation Procedure-
Rinse rise 3-4 times with cold water, until water runs clear. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Place in rice cooker or large pot (rice cooker recommended) and cover with water up to first knuckle on index finger (about 4 1/4 Cups). If using pot cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and cook 5 minutes, then turn to very-low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. If using rice cooking simply press button and follow manufacturers instructions.

While rice is cooking, bring seasoning mixture to simmer in small sauce pan. Do not let boil. Let cool to room temperature. In a large cypress bowl or sheet pan spread out rice using a wooden spoon. Fan rice with a paper and gradually add cooled seasoning mixture while stirring in a figure “8”. Add liquid gradually until previous amount is absorbed. Rice should be glossy or shiny. Fan until no longer steaming then cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 30 minutes. Should be shiny not mushy.