Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beauty Before Taste? Not at My Table

You can’t eat pictures, although I do remember seeing a movie called “King of the Hill,” where a boy is so hungry that he cuts pictures of food from magazines, puts them on a plate and then gobbles them up.

What I’m talking about is real food on my table.  I’m happy to admire a beautifully roasted chicken, but given the choice of how it looks versus how it tastes, I’ll take taste any day.  I came to this point of view when boxed cake mixes started using chocolate “flavoring” instead of real chocolate.  They looked great but tasted like cardboard.

Food stylists, whose job it is to make food perfect for the camera, don’t focus on taste because usually no one eats it.  One stylist trick to make food glisten is to spray on WD-40.  Another is using white glue instead of milk when photographing a bowl of cereal because real milk will make the cereal soggy.  As for that gorgeous roast chicken, it may not even be cooked because cooking causes the skin to shrink—not a good look in a picture.

This appearance-versus-taste issue popped up recently when we were eating with a friend.  For dinner she served homemade Roast Chicken, but there was no formal presentation of the fully cooked bird.  Instead, she simply cut it up and served it in a bowl with a few sides.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was absolutely delicious.  That’s the way to my heart.

Here’s a roast chicken recipe that does not look pretty but tastes awfully good. 
Indian-Style Whole Roast Chicken - serves 4 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mango powder (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more if you like very spicy food
1 4-pound chicken 
Combine the lemon juice, oil, garlic, coriander, cumin, ginger, mango powder (if using), salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. 
Remove the giblets from the chicken and rinse the cavity.  Remove and discard the skin--or simply loosen it and work underneath the skin, as described below.  
Put the chicken in a deep casserole dish.  With a sharp knife cut a dozen or more deep slits in the chicken meat and spoon the spice mixture over and into the meat.  Cover the casserole. 
Heat the oven to 425 degrees and roast the chicken for 1 ¼ hour.  Check to make sure the juices coming out of the cavity are clear.  If they’re not, roast another 10 minutes.  
Transfer the chicken to a rimmed cutting board or platter, cover with foil and let rest while preparing the sauce. 
Pour the liquid remaining in the casserole dish into an empty glass jar.  The fat from the roasted bird will rise to the top.  Spoon off and discard as much of this fat as possible.  Pour the remaining liquid into a gravy boat or small bowl.  
Cut the chicken into pieces and serve along with the gravy. 
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