Saturday, November 30, 2013

Roast chicken and Maillard reactions

The cooks’ consensus, with which I have always agreed, is that you start cooking a chicken or joint of meat at a high temperature, to brown it, before lowering the dial. But my previous observation about browning reactions (known as Maillard reactions) – that they work more efficiently once the cooking process is well established - made me realise that this initial blast may be unnecessary.

Roasting a chicken the other day, I simply cooked it at gas mark 4/180C throughout (2 hours, for a 2kg bird – butter massaged between the skin and breast, rubbed all over, placed inside the cavity; lemon squeezed over and placed inside the cavity, into which I also placed two bashed garlic cloves). It emerged from the oven perfectly bronzed.

Why do meat and skin brown more efficiently later in the cooking process? Their loss of water, which would inhibit browning, may be one explanation. But it does not account for why, when one fries meat in batches in a frying pan, the later batches brown more efficiently. The reason for their doing so may explain also why the first pancake is usually a flabby disappointment.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sausage with chick peas and paprika

Sausage sauces for pasta are sometimes a bit like this. Cutting the sausages into discs enables you to brown the meat instead of just the skins; it also removes bursting as an issue. For 2.

Olive oil
4 sausages, or 4 chorizos, sliced into discs
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into fork-sized pieces
1tbsp paprika
Cayenne pepper to taste (or dried chilli flakes)
Salt to taste
1 tin chick peas, drained

Put a splash of oil into a heavy pan, and brown the sausage pieces over a low heat. Particularly if they are chorizos, they will throw off their own fat.

Add the garlic, onion, and red pepper, with a little more oil if necessary, stir, and cover the pan. Continue cooking over a low heat, stirring regularly. The peppers and onions will throw off their liquid, so it will be safe to add the paprika and cayenne (or chilli flakes), which might have burned in the oil otherwise. Add salt, remembering that the sausages are seasoned (and that your chick peas may have been preserved in brine).

Add the chick peas, stir again, and continue to cook, covered, for a further 10 minutes.

Serve with rice. (Mashed potato would be possible too, if you wanted a richer meal.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chicken with lemon, garlic, red onion, and turmeric

The chicken with lemon, garlic, and rosemary dish I made in September may be even nicer with turmeric substituted for the rosemary, and with two red onions, sliced. The turmeric (1 to 2tsps) tempers the sharpness of the lemon.

Add it after the dish has been cooking, covered, for 25 minutes or so, by which time the ingredients should have created a sauce. Add it at the beginning, and the powder may catch on the base of the pan. I was liberal with the black pepper.