Saturday, June 6, 2009

Chicken And A Brick Make Beautiful Music Together

Plus The Wonder Of A Toasted Spice...And What Does This Have To Do With Madhur Jaffrey?

Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell

The Secret to Pollo Al Matone (That's the Food Network misspelling Mattone)

Anne is doing a classic Tuscan dish today - Chicken Under A Brick. She cuts through the back bone of a whole Cornish game hen with kitchen shears. She calls in a spine-ectomy and says she loves the size of the hen for individual portions.  

Anne flattens out the Cornish hen on the board to prevent it from looking like “chicken roadkill”. (She really is outrageous.) She makes a great effort with its presentation. She saves the back bone and wing tips for the freezer to make stock later. 

She uses the word ROADKILL yet again, as she ties the legs together to give it a very different-from-roadkill look. She uses string to tie them together, preferring it over something like scallions, which she called far too precious. (I never even thought to use scallions, but that would certainly elevate the bird to one step above road kill.) 

After she finishes with "the chicken handcuffs", Anne places the Cornish hens (she's preparing two) in an ovenproof dish. She immediately goes over to the sink to start her chicken cleanup. She washes her hands super thoroughly and gets rid of any touched-by-the-raw-chicken items. A woman after my own heart! 

But why does she say not to touch a seat candle and WHAT is that?!! OH! SINK my part of the world (English speaking), we call that a FAUCET...

Anne does all the chopping for all her dishes. Herbs and garlic get chopped for the chicken AND potatoes. She smashes the garlic and chops it. Chopped rosemary and garlic go into a bowl for the chicken marinade. She adds toasted cumin seeds to a coffee grinder. and grinds them. Anne says it's amazing how much flavor is brought out by toasting the seeds. 

Anne is sooooooooooooooo right. Toasted cumin is an ingredient in one of my favorite recipes of all time - Madhur Jaffrey's Zucchini "Meatballs", where she adds the toasted ground cumin seeds to a cream sauce. 

That may sound weird maybe, but even after the four days and 40 pots it takes to make this recipe, you will never forget the taste...the warmth...the magic...(No, I'm not talking about cotton) of toasted cumin. It is a complete life-changer. 

Anne adds the ground cumin to the garlic and rosemary with lemon zest (she LOVES her microplaner) and lemon juice. Then she adds crushed red pepper, pimenton (smoked paprika) and olive oil. She "schmears" the stuff all over the hens and says it's fine to marinate them at room temperature for up to two hours. She massages in the marinade really well. 

You may be squeamish about that amount of time, but 2 hours IS the magic number after which food has to be refrigerated. That's true when serving cooked food as well. After 2 hours, it must be packed up and chilled. Having said that, though, I admit that I generally only marinate at room temperature for about half an hour. Longer than that, I DO put whatever it is in the fridge. 

For her potato dish, Anne cuts little round red and white new potatoes in half, while she begins to preheat her olive-oiled pan for the chicken. To the potatoes, she adds pepper, garlic, sage, a pinch of chili flakes and lots of salt. She oils them up really well and places them on a baking sheet.  

Anne tells us that she adds cold oil to a cold pan (for the chicken). That way she can check on the status of the oil much better.  The potatoes go into the oven. The temperature and cooking time are a mystery.

The chicken gets salted (a lot) and put into the "screaming" hot pan with tongs, after the oil has started to do "the wave". THAT'S how Anne can tell that the pan is getting hot. When she places the hens in the pan, she does it very nicely, because they're not going to be moved. 

More salt goes on the underside. She doesn't touch the chickens, because they will unstick themselves eventually. She lays another sauté pan right on top of the chicken. Then a foiled wrapped brick goes on top of that - hence the name of the recipe. The brick will keep the chickens flat and the skin will get all crispy. 

Now she's thinking antipasti. Anne likes to buy her calamari already cleaned. She moves the whole chicken assemblage into the oven. Oh, it's at 400 degrees. 

To tell you the truth, I'm so interested in the chicken and the potatoes, that I'm just not that psyched about the calamari. It's going to have be amazingly good to appeal to me.

We get a quick tip of wet paper towels to keep a cutting board from slipping. A more green alternative is to place a wet dishtowel underneath. I'm just saying...

Anne show us the "big tube-y" bodies of the calamari. She makes sure all the quills are removed. She cuts them thinly lengthwise, so they "twirl" up and look like noodles when cooked. 

She says to get all the prep work done first and then there's plenty of time for the fun stuff. That's how she "rolls in the restaurant". She yanks off the longest tentacles from the calamari and washes her hands again. 

Anne "perfumes" her oil with garlic and chili flakes. She's proud of her perfect mise en place today. She browns the garlic and then removes it. For "a salty punctuation", she chops Kalamata olives. Okay, this IS sounding good. 

Anne takes out the potatoes and tosses them around to brown both sides. (That's not an inconsiderable amount of oil.) 

After the chicken has been in the oven for 15 minutes, Anne takes the brick and top sauté pan off. She puts the chickens on a baking sheet and sets them aside. 

Then Anne gets rid of the majority of the liquid in the pan!!! I can understand getting rid of A BIT of the fat on top (although I almost never do), but MOST of it?!!  I would add some wine and stock and boil it away to get a nice reduction. 

There are tons of commercials are for The Next Food Network Star. Are you ready? I refuse to spend one more minute than necessary on it and I won't be watching the videos of the 75 contestants beforehand. 

The 40 seconds of screentime they each get in the first episode is more than enough for my brutal judgements. And frankly, these preview commercials don't make me like these contestants any more than I would anyway. They mostly just annoy me!

The calamari goes into the "screamin' hot" oil. Anne takes grilled bread off the heat. To the chicken pan, she adds chicken stock after deglazing with white wine. That's fine, but I still can't believe she threw out all that stuff. I'm sure she would say it was mostly fat. Remember, though, that fat is flavor and she could always skim the sauce at the end of the cooking. She throws some (more) salt into her sauce. 

She adds some white wine to the calamari and tosses in the olives with LOTS of salt. 

Anne plates the potatoes (great looking) and one of the Cornish hens. She pours over some of the pan juices. Wowee zowee! She tastes it. "Beautifully succulent". 

Next she tastes the calamari right out of the sauté pan. MORE salt. Arugula goes into a bowl. She spoons the calamari over with the juices. She rubs the grilled bread with garlic and pours over a lot of "finishing" oil. She loves it. "Beautifully tender." 

Great dishes, although I'd keep all those luscious pan juices. And best of all, Anne reminded me of how much I love that toasted cumin sauce on zucchini "meat" balls.


Anonymous said...

i have tried the "brick trick," but the chicken never cooks evenly.

the dark meat, as expected, is undercooked...and everything else is burned beyond recognition.

anyone have any suggestions?

Sue said...

I'm so sorry to hear that. I just checked the reviews and I saw that one person suggested leaving it on top of the stove for much longer than the recipe suggests. Did you use small Cornish hens or did you use a larger chicken? Maybe, as per your experience, the pan should be turned down and the hen should be allowed to cook for a bit on top of the stove at a lower heat.

Anonymous said...

What did she do with the chopped up olives?

Sue said...

Hi Anon,
She added the chopped up olives to the cooked calamari for "a salty punctuation".

Adam said...

I was thinking two hours at room temp is a bit much, but maybe I'm wrong. If it's good enough for Food TV, then I guess my rock gut can handle it :)

I sadly won't be watching Food Network Star this go around... I wasn't impressed with the last one, and the real reason is I don't have a TV.

So the ball is in your court with your judgments and recaps of the show. No pressure, Sue :)

Sue said...

Oh gosh, Adam,
I was actually thinking of taking a more truncated approach to the show this time. I better decide what I'm going to do, because it starts in FOUR minutes. Stay tuned!

I would think that the 2 hours should be amended if the food is not in a coolish house. If it's outside, I'd err on the side of caution, no matter how rock solid one's gut is.

Emily said...

I've got to get my hands on some cumin seeds. I bet I could order them online. Think of all the delicious curries and Mexican food you could make!

Sounds like some good recipes. I've never made chicken under a brick before.