Friday, May 24, 2013

Spatchcocked chicken

I like the idea of grilling a whole chicken, spatchcocked and laid flat on the rack. It suggests a rustic approach to outdoors cooking. But it’s a difficult process to get right. The heat from a grill may be fierce, and burn the exterior of the bird or toughen some of the meat before cooking it through.

The weather still being inimical to barbecues, I cooked my spatcocked chicken at the bottom of my grill drawer, with the heat set to its lowest. I didn’t help my cause by using soy sauce in the marinade, along with the juice of a lemon, a couple of glugs of olive oil, and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic: the sugar in the sauce caramelises, and burns. You have to turn the chicken regularly.

It took about 45 minutes. This is about half the time that would have been necessary to roast it; nevertheless, the breast was tougher, because of the intense direct heat, than the breast of a roasted chicken would have been. In future, I’d prefer to chop up the chicken, cooking breast and legs for the different times that suit them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Belly pork, pot-roasted

The best way to produce meltingly tender meat from a joint such as lamb shoulder or belly pork, in my oven, is to pot-roast it. The heat inside a heavy casserole is lower than the oven temperature at the lowest setting (about 130C). See also Foil and slow roasting.

You can get good pork crackling, too. Following a long quest for crackling perfection (I have written numerous entries on the subject), I have so far yet to record a failure after rubbing vinegar over the skin. The theory behind this technique is that the acid helps to break down the collagen, the protein that provides the skin's rubbery texture.

I had a 1.2kg piece of belly pork, which serves four people easily.

Try to leave the pork uncovered for a while, with salt sprinkled on the skin. When you’re ready to cook the joint, use a paper towel to wipe off the moisture that the salt will have drawn out. Smear a little oil on the meaty underside. Smear a tbsp of vinegar on the skin. Season all over with salt and pepper. You may like to use fennel, too.

Put the belly pork into a grill pan, and grill the skin until it starts to brown.

Slice two onions into rings, mix them with a little oil, and put them into a heavy casserole. Lay the bellow pork on top, put on the lid, and cook at the lowest possible heat at the bottom of the oven, for five to six hours.

Slice off the skin, return the pork to the casserole, and cover to keep warm. Turn the oven to its highest setting, put the skin in a dish or on a baking sheet, and bake until it is crunchy.

The meat from the joint should be tender enough to cut with a spoon.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Risotto with chorizo

A fusion – is this word still fashionable in cookery? – of Italian and Spanish. Serves 2.

Chicken stock
Olive oil
4 cooking chorizos, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into fork-sized pieces
200g Arborio rice
4 heaped tbsp grated Parmesan, Pecorino, or Manchego

You’ll need about 700ml of chicken stock, or more. Bring it to simmering point in a saucepan.

Meanwhile, put a splash of olive oil in a heavy pan, and fry the chorizos over a gentle heat until they have started to brown and have exuded their rust-coloured fat. Throw in the garlic, onion, and pepper, and continue to cook until they are soft. Add more oil if necessary, but you may have enough.

Add the rice, and stir it with the vegetables and chorizo until hot. Now start adding the stock. Because of the quantity of extra ingredients, you may at first want more than the ladleful traditional in risotto cookery, in order to submerge all the rice and to get it to start to soften. The heat should be just high enough to keep the liquid at a moderate simmer. Wait until the stock is absorbed, and add some more, repeating the process until the rice becomes plump, but with a faint residual bite – 20 to 25 minutes. Add a little salt to taste; but remember that the sausage will be salty, as will the cheese.

Take the pan off the heat, stir in the cheese, and serve.