Monday, October 23, 2006

Serves me right

I had two culinary setbacks at the weekend -- retribution, no doubt, for setting myself up here as some kind of expert.

First, having boasted last week that I had worked out how to avoid stodgy noodles, I served up some stodgy noodles. I peeled and cubed -- what a boring job it was -- a butternut squash, and baked it with some sunflower oil, salt and pepper. I steamed some broccoli. I prepared the noodles according to the method I advised on 19th October; but I forgot to rinse them, and simply drained them and put them in a saucepan of cold water. I put the roasting pan with the baked squash on to a low light on the hob, added the drained noodles, broccoli and sauces, and stirred it all up until it was warm. The noodles clumped together. Perhaps it was because of my forgetting to rinse them; perhaps it was because there was a larger quantity (200 g) than last time. I shall not despair.

I cannot remember the last time this happened: my roast chicken was not cooked when I wanted to take it out of the oven. Juices from the thigh ran red. The bird was mocking the post I had planned to put up soon: I had been going to write that the oven temperatures given in most recipes for roasts were unnecessarily high. I have found -- until this incident -- that if I give the chicken an initial 30 minutes in a hot oven (gas mark 6, 200 C), I can turn down the heat to gas mark 2 (150 C) for the remainder of the cooking time. I allow 20 minutes for each 500 g, plus 30 minutes. Usually, the chicken is ready before then; but I like to give the legs plenty of time to tenderise, albeit at the cost of some toughening of the breast meat.

Perhaps I didn't give the oven long enough to heat up. (In the Observer Food Monthly yesterday, Clarissa Dickson-Wright and Johnny Scott's recipe for "The perfect roast chicken" recommended an initial temperature of gas mark 8/230 C.) Perhaps I cooled down the oven by placing a tin of potatoes on a lower shelf (a useless exercise -- I should have waited until the chicken was out and then cooked them for 30 minutes on a very high heat). It was a Label Anglais Special Reserve chicken; I've never had a problem with one of them before. But I am inclined to think that this particular bird was awkward. Next time, I shall give the oven at least 30 minutes to heat up before I put in the chicken; but I won't change the temperatures or the timing.

I carved the legs off my undercooked chicken and put them back in the oven alongside the potatoes. The temperature was 230 C; but the meat on chicken legs is forgiving. Anything dangerous in the blood that had escaped into the roasting pan was cooked away as I heated the gravy. I took a risk that there was no contamination of the rest of the meat. We are still here.

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