Sunday, January 17, 2016

The ICK Factor

Roast Chicken
Many recipes have what I call “The ICK Factor.”  For some, it’s cutting onions, which can make you cry.  For others, it’s washing the dirt off fresh spinach, leeks or beets.

Cracking eggs and getting raw egg white on your fingers is icky.  So is cutting away fat from a raw pork chop. 

Shaping meatballs by hand is cold, icky work, but they look so much better than meatballs scooped with a spoon and, untouched, dropped into a sauce to cook. 

Skimming off fat that rises to the surface of a dish like Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine Sauce) or Meatloaf is unpleasant, but eating them without having removed this fat first is more unpleasant.

Yuck to pulling “beards” (a mass of threads sticking out of the shell) from uncooked mussels, but eating the beard is worse.

Using your fingers to yank bones out of raw fish fillets or salmon steaks is disagreeable but it’s better than spitting them out.   

Taking a bite of rare chicken is not only icky but potentially dangerous to your health.  The same holds true for rare pork and undercooked fresh (not pre-cooked) sausages. 

For me, touching cold raw chicken is the worst, particularly if it’s a whole chicken and I have to reach into the cavity to pull out the giblets (heart, liver, kidneys) and sometimes even the chopped-off neck.  Cook them separately if you like, but do remove them before roasting the chicken. 

Chicken with Giblets
On the plus side, Roast Chicken is one of the easiest recipes to prepare--if you can just get over handling it.  In his learning-to-cook days, my son/cookbook co-author Kevin at least once successfully removed the innards by shaking the whole chicken, cavity-side down, over the sink. Ultimately, though, it’s easier to put your hand inside. 
Roast Chicken – serves 4, depending on size (adapted from "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!")  
1 whole chicken, from 3 1/2 – 4 pounds (thawed if frozen) 
1 teaspoon canola or corn oil 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)  
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
Remove the giblets and rinse the chicken in water.  Place it on a rack in a roasting pan.  Wipe the skin with the oil, which will help it brown evenly.  Sprinkle the skin with garlic powder, if desired.  The taste won’t change much, but it will smell wonderful as it cooks. 
Bake for about 1 1/2 hours.  To see if the chicken is fully cooked, tip the pan so some of the juices run out of the cavity. If the juice is clear, not red, the chicken is ready to eat.  If the juice is red, cook for another 15 minutes and test again.  If the leg wiggles easily, it is done.  Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for a few minutes.  Slice or cut it into pieces and serve.