Monday, March 23, 2009

Newspaper Column - four ways with ROAST CHICKEN

Publish in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 23 March 2009

The only thing worse than a frigid March is a frigid March with a chest cold. And when I have a chest cold, there’s nothing I want more than homemade chicken soup. Which brings me to the subject of cooking a chicken.

Coincidentally, I have just joined the Facebook group “Support Backyard Chicken Coops in Saskatoon” which calls on city hall to permit the raising of a few hens in a cage in the backyard. I have heard rumours that some agrarian souls are already raising chickens on the sly, so perhaps this is a good time for a general discussion on the merits and demerits of the concept.

The idea is not far-fetched: Two weeks ago, the city of Vancouver asked its staff to draft a bylaw amendment that would permit urban chicken coops. Apparently, it’s been standard practice in Portland, Oregon, for so long they offer workshops and tours of their backyard henhouses. But at this very moment I am most interested in the chicken in my pot.

Day One: Roast Chicken.
It is best to begin with a big meaty chicken, not a dainty fryer, and preferably a bird that got some fresh air and sunshine during its time on this earth. Place the bird breast-side down in a roasting pan. Put a few cloves of garlic in the cavity. Surround it with potatoes, carrots and onions cut into quarters.

Drizzle everything with olive oil, sprinkle on salt, pepper and herbs such as rosemary and thyme (fresh or dried) and pour in one-half cup of water. Place in a 400F oven. Baking time will depend on the size of the chicken. A free-range four-pound bird will take about an hour, bigger birds will be longer. To test for doneness, insert a knife into the thick part of the thigh joint. The juice should run clear, not pink.

Remove from the oven and carefully lift the chicken onto a cutting board, tipping it so all the juices flow into the pan. Carve the chicken and eat with the roast vegetables.

After dinner, place the roasting pan on low heat. Add a half-cup of water and simmer, scraping up the brown bits. Pour the juices through a strainer into a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Refrigerate.

Day Two: Chicken Stock
Remove the meat from the chicken. Put the carcass in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrots and celery roughly chopped, a handful of parsley stems and all, peppercorns, coriander seeds and a bay leaf. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer two hours.

Pour the stock through a sieve to remove the bones and vegetables. Cool and place the stock in the refrigerator (or outside when it’s cold). Skim off the fat that rises to the top. Discard the vegetables (preferably to the compost). Remove any remaining meat and discard the bones.

Day Three: Chicken Soup
Take the pan juices from the fridge. They will have separated into layers. Remove and discard the top whitish layer. The bottom layer is now a flavourful jelly. Melt the jelly on low heat in a soup pot and proceed with the recipe below.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken jelly
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp dried herbs (thyme, oregano, coriander, basil)
1 bay leaf
1-2 cups leftover chicken, chopped
1 tsp salt and ample ground pepper
Small soup noodles

Melt the chicken jelly in a stock pot. Sauté onion and garlic until brown. Add carrots, celery, chicken stock, water, parsley, herbs and bay leaf. Boil until carrot is cooked. Remove bay leaf. Add chicken, salt and pepper, keeping at a simmer.
Meanwhile, boil the pasta noodles according to the package directions. Taste the soup, adding salt and pepper if needed. To serve, place noodles in a bowl and ladle on the soup.

Day 4: Chicken Pie
When I roast a big chicken for John and I, we usually have enough meat left over to make my grandma’s chicken pie.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Leftover chicken - GRANDMA'S CHICKEN PIE

John loves roast chicken because he knows it results in a chicken pie a few days later.

I learned to make chicken pie by watching my grandma. She didn’t use exact measurements and neither do I. So, there’s plenty of room for experimentation and adding your personal touch.

It starts with a roast free-range chicken that includes roast potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, plus the flavourful jelly made from the drippings. Sometimes I add cooked fresh peas when I have them.

Approx. 1/4 cup chicken jelly or butter, or a mix of both
Approx. 1/4 cup flour
Leftover chicken, roast potatoes, carrots and onions
Dried or fresh sage and thyme
Salt and pepper
Double pie crust

In a large skillet, melt the chicken jelly and/or butter.

Chop the roast onions and garlic. If there aren’t a lot of roast onions, chop some fresh onion, too. Add to the melted chicken jelly. Sauté until warm and soft.

Sprinkle on most of the flour and stir with a fork to incorporate. The flour should absorb all of the liquid. If it doesn’t, add a bit more flour. Cook the flour paste until it starts to brown.

Add a cup of water and stir well so that the liquid breaks down all the flour, with no clumps. Simmer until thickened.

While it simmers, chop the roast potatoes, carrots and chicken into small pieces. When the liquid is thickened, add another half cup of water along with the potatoes, carrots and chicken. Stir well. Add the herbs, salt and pepper.

Sage is a powerful herb so don’t add too much. I start with about a teaspoon of crumbled dried sage or 4 big leaves of fresh sage, finely sliced. After cooking awhile, taste to determine if there’s enough sage and add more if you like. Also taste for salt and pepper to determine if more is needed.

By now, the mixture will have absorbed much of the liquid. Add more water so that the meat and vegetables are about half covered. Simmer. The liquid will thicken up again. When it is no longer runny, turn off the heat and let it sit until it cools off a bit.

Place a pie crust in a pie plate. Pour in the cooled meat filling and apply the top crust. Cut slits in the top crust. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes, until the pie crust is a nice golden brown.

It’s best not to serve the pie piping hot from the oven. Let it rest and cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Downtown Grocery for Local Foods

It's been a few years since the last grocery store chain packed up and left downtown Saskatoon.

That's opened the market for a new independent venture. Two well-respected food establishments are joining efforts to bring a grocery store to downtown Saskatoon. While the store will have a range of goods, it will focus front and centre on locally-produced foods. That's not surprising considering the two partners: Calories restaurant, where the menu is local and seasonal, and Pine View Farms, purveyor of naturally-rasied meat. Accodring to a newspaper article, the store is set to open this spring or summer.

Their grocery store will be called Souleio - Provançal for "sun."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Local Bounty II

The second Local Bounty conference was held this past weekend in Saskatoon bringing chefs and farmers together to share their passion for locally-produced food.

Guest speaker was Chef Wade Sirois of Calgary's Forage - Farm to Fork Foods to Go, a catering and take-away service that focusses on fresh farm food. I love his motto: Food you know from people you know. Wade blogged about his trip to Saskatoon and confesses he was blow away by the local food scene.

In particular, he raves about the lunch buffet served by Executive Chef Anthony McCarthy, which was truly spectacular -- proof that local chefs have absolutely no fear in producing a gourmet meal based on the bounty of Saskatchewan.

As for that local bounty, a few new products came onto my radar:

Fresh Air Flavours of Nipawin isn't exactly new, but owner Julie Remple has created smart new labels for her line of savoury jams and pesto. She gave me some samples and I'm really enjoying them.

Bedard Creek Acres is producing a line of syrups made with flowers and herds from their farm at Choiceland. Imagine pouring Red Clover Blossom Syrup on your French toast. Recipes on the website include ideas for using it with salmon, ham and even burritos.

There's a new CSA at Aberdeen. CSA stand for Community Supported Agriculture -- The idea is that consumers buy into the product up front and pledge to purchase a certain amount of the harvest. The CSA at Fruition Orchard is offering fruit, berries, tomatoes and honey.

Another exciting development is a new restaurant soon to open in Saskatoon. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to publicize it yet, so let this be a tease.... Watch here for details!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LENTIL SPROUT WRAP

We got back from vacation five days ago, just long enough to grow a batch of lentil sprouts. We didn't have a lot of food in the fridge (I was too busy to shop, if you can believe that!) so I created this easy and healthy sandwich filling with Saskatchewan ingredients we had on hand.

2 tsp minced onion
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp plain yogurt
1/4 tsp each cumin and coriander
dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper
1/2 cup lentil sprouts
3 hard cooked eggs, chopped

Mix everything together. Serve in a whole wheat wrap. (Note: we made 3 wraps with this amount of filling.) To grow your own lentil sprouts, see the instructions here.