A CLASSIC ROAST CHICKEN

From Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home

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I confess to a love-hate relationship with roasted chicken: Love to eat it, hate to make it, because some recipes that promised “the best roast chicken you’ll ever eat” gave me only grievance instead.   Here are two examples.  One famous recipe calls for blasting the bird in a 500F  oven, which made an unbelievable mess, set off every smoke alarm in the house, and left a lingering smell of roast chicken for days.   I also fell for a recipe that insisted the best way to roast a chicken is to first sear it in a frying pan, and then move  it into a hot oven.  That method resulted in both the stove AND the oven covered in oily splatter.  I dealt with it in the hope of  “… the best ever“, but… it wasn’t.

Every recipe in Keller’s book makes me want to jump to the kitchen to start working on it, so I couldn’t resist his take on roast chicken.   I’m glad that I didn’t, it was simple to prepare and finished with a happy ending.  This recipe is a full  meal in itself:  you’ll have a nice roast chicken, crispy and moist, with a bonus side dish accompanying it.  It was satisfying home-cooking at its best.

(para receita em portugues, clique aqui)

ROAST CHICKEN WITH ROOT VEGETABLES
(adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc)

1 whole chicken, preferably organic (4 – 4.5 pounds)
2 cloves garlic, mashed
fresh thyme sprigs
salt and pepper
3 rutabagas
2 turnips
6 carrots
12 small yellow or red new potatoes
1/3  cup canola oil
4 T butter at room temperature or 2 T duck fat
1/2 lemon

If you are particularly fond of crispy skin, leave the bird uncovered  in the fridge for a couple of days.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1.5 hours before roasting (important step, don’t skip it).

Heat the oven to 475F.

Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, add the garlic, 4 thyme sprigs, and the lemon half in the cavity.  For a nicer presentation, truss the chicken (see how to do it here, but you may omit this step if you prefer – read my comments).

Cut the rutabagas and turnips in similar sized pieces, about 3/4 inch wedges. Cut the carrots in half crosswise and again lengthwise. Keep the young potatoes whole, or, if they are a bit too big cut them in half.  Place all veggies in a large bowl, add  1/4 cup of canola oil,  2-3 thyme sprigs, salt, pepper, and toss well.  Transfer them to a roasting pan, make a small space in the center to place the chicken.  Rub the remaining canola oil all over the skin of the chicken, seasoning it again with salt and pepper.

Just before roasting, add pats of butter over the breast, or brush with some duck fat (it gives a deeper flavor to the chicken,).

Roast at 475F for 25 minutes, lower the temperature to 400F and roast for 1 hour, but check the internal temperature after 45 minutes, if it reaches 160F remove the chicken from the oven.  Allow the chicken to rest under an aluminum foil tent for 20 minutes before carving.

A few minutes before serving, place the roasting dish on the stove and heat the vegetables, moving them around to coat with the juices accumulated during roasting.

Enjoy!

to print the recipe, click here


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CAULIFLOWER SOUP, All Dressed Up!

This is the first recipe I cooked from Thomas Keller’s new book “Ad Hoc“.  He calls it “Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips.” Fair enough, but I wish the name was a bit more catchy, because the recipe sure deserves it.  😉
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I’ve made many types of cauliflower soup, from simple versions (cauliflower, onions and water) to involved interpretations in which the cauliflower is first roasted, then paired with different spices, truffle oil, etc…. you get the picture.

Thomas Keller’s recipe takes the soup to a new level. Not only because the red chips refine its look, but because it also tastes refined. You’ll swoon over the first spoonful, and then wonder if any other mix of flavors could work so well together.

CREAM OF CAULIFLOWER SOUP with RED BEET CHIPS
(adapted from Keller’s “Ad Hoc”)

1 head of cauliflower
2 T butter
3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
1/8 tsp curry powder (I used hot curry from Penzey’s)
kosher salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 + 1/2 cups water
peanut oil for frying beet chips
1 beet
1 tsp white vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground

Make the soup….
Remove the leaves and core of the cauliflower, separate about 1 cup of good-looking florets, not larger than a quarter, and reserve them.  Chop the rest of the cauliflower in chunks of similar size.  Melt 1.5 T of butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onions, curry powder, and cauliflower, sprinkle 1 tsp salt, and cover the whole mixture with parchment paper, making a “false lid” right on top of the cauliflower.  Cover the saucepan with its regular lid, cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower starts to get tender.

Remove the parchment paper, add milk, cream, and water to the pan, and simmer, skimming the foam every now and then, for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender (I did it in three batches), and blend until fully smooth.  Adjust the seasoning.

Make the red beet chips….
Peel the beet (wear gloves) and make paper-thin slices using a mandoline. Ideally, you want to use only nice, full circles (good luck!).  Heat the peanut oil (about 1 inch of oil in a deep pan), and once it is hot but not smoking, add a few beet rounds. Fry them until they stop bubbling hard, it should take a little over 1 minute. Place them on a baking sheet over paper towels, seasoning with a little salt right after frying.  If needed, keep them warm in a 200F oven.

Cook the reserved florets….
Bring some salted water to a boil, add the teaspoon of vinegar, and cook the reserved florets until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain them.  Right before serving, melt the remaining 1/2 T butter in a small pan and allow it to get dark golden. Watch it carefully, because burned butter is nasty, and tastes bitter. Once the butter is turning a nice golden brown, add the florets and saute them until golden too.

Serve the soup….
If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little water.  Ladle it into a bowl, add some cauliflower florets in the center, and a few beet chips on top.  Serve more florets and chips alongside.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here.

Comments: My only modifications were to slightly reduce the amount of heavy cream, and omit the croutons called for in the original recipe. Keller recommends serving a few chips on the soup itself, and the rest on a separate plate, because they may get soggy. I actually didn’t find that a problem: they released a bit of red juice into the velvety soup, creating a nice visual appeal, and they weren’t soggy to the point of losing their texture.

You’ll notice that he uses a false parchment lid over the veggies, an important step.  The dish has little liquid at that point, basically only some moisture released by the onions – by using the parchment “lid”, you lock the moisture in, and at the same time the curry becomes nicely toasted and permeates the cauliflower more efficiently.

Making the beet chips was an adventure… The book shows a photo of Thomas Keller in a pristine looking kitchen, with perfect rounds of chips resting on a baking sheet, well organized in perfect rows. It made me feel… let’s say…. a little inadequate…   My kitchen looked like the set of a horror movie, red beet juice everywhere, and carbonized chips begging for the trash can to end their misery.  Oh, well – at least I managed to get enough chips to serve to the two of us.

This is a classy soup, so if you are into soup shots to open a dinner party, it could be a fine option.

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NEW COOKBOOK in the HOUSE

I arrived home to see a package on my doorstep…

THIS is what I got:

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Thomas Keller has written several amazing books, such as Bouchon, The French Laundry, and Under Pressure.   Once in a blue moon we indulge in a three-star restaurant, but I have no inclination to produce gastronomical masterpieces at home.  I admire people who do it, and I followed Carol’s adventures as she cooked her way through The French Laundry, and watch her ongoing work through Alinea.  Amazing stuff!
But when I learned that Thomas Keller was publishing a cookbook with “family-style” recipes from his restaurant Ad Hoc, I pre-ordered it.  Now I’m looking forward to cooking from it.   As with all my new acquisitions, I’m in the phase of carrying the book with me from sofa to bed, bed to kitchen table, back to the sofa,  while reading, savoring, dreaming.   Like a kid in a candy store, I’m still trying to decide which recipe will be THE FIRST.

Life is good… 😉