Roast Chicken in a Bag

I hesitate to say that this is a no-fail recipe but I can say that it’s never failed me.  I first heard of roasting chicken in a paper bag many years ago when I didn’t have much money and I only had rudimentary cooking utensils, but that didn’t stop me from making an fantastic dinner.  This is a perfect recipe for the young bachelor who wants to impress but can’t afford a dozen long stemmed roses!

I roasted a whole, small hen in a paper grocery bag with dried herbs, potatoes and carrots.  The hen came out tender and juicy and perfectly cooked and the vegetables were full of flavor. 

It’s important to note that you will need a large paper bag.  Grocery store paper bags are perfectly suitable and they don’t add to the cost of the meal. Don’t forget to request paper bags when you go to the store to buy the chicken!

Use an ordinary grocery store bag

For this recipe, I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of a whole hen

Ingredients:

¼ cup Herbe de Provence (or an Italian herb mix)

½ tsp red chile flakes

½ tsp salt

1 tsp dried onion

½ tsp cracked black pepper

2 Tbs olive oil

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 head of broccoli (about ½ lb)

1 lb small potatoes

2 large carrots

2 ears of fresh corn on the cob

A few small fresh chiles

4 oz fresh mushrooms

½ onion peeled but not chopped or sliced

3 Tbs butter, melted

¼ cup fresh basil

½ tsp sea salt, crushed

¼ tsp cracked black pepper

For the roasting bag:  One large paper grocery bag and a few tablespoons of cooking oil.

Directions:

Add olive oil, herbs, chile flakes, dried onion, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat.  Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Prepare the bag for roasting.  Lay a large casserole dish on a work surface.  A glass or metal pan can be used, as long as it is deep enough to collect juices that might run out of the bag when it is comes out of the oven.

Stand the paper bag in the dish and smear the entire bag with cooking oil.  I like to pour a little oil onto a paper towel and scrub the bag with soaked paper towel.  This doesn’t require much oil…just enough to wet the bag a little.  Set aside.

Wash the vegetables and allow them to air dry for several minutes.  Cut the corn into 3 to 4 inch pieces.  Leave the rest of the vegetables whole. 

In a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons melted butter, ¼ cup fresh, chopped basil, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper.  Mix together, briefly.  Add the potatoes, carrots and corn to the bowl and toss.

Add all of the vegetables to the paper bag, in no particular order.  Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables.  Clasp the top of the paper bag and roll together tightly to seal.

Place in a 350° oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how tender you like your vegetables.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow to cool on a table for a few minutes.  Carefully cut a whole near the top of the bag to allow the steam to escape.  Cut the remaining top portion of the bag away. 

Remove the chicken and vegetables from the bag and move to a cutting board.  Cut the broccoli and carrots into bite sized portions.  Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter.  Slice the chicken into serving slices and nestle the chicken in the vegetables.

Enjoy the aroma and celebrate with good friends and loved ones!

Grapefruit – Four Ways

My favorite sort of days evolve and flow in natural, unpredictable ways.  I don’t always plan meals ahead of time, and even when I do, my instincts guide me when it actually comes time to cook. 

1. Segmented Grapefruit

I saw some nice looking grapefruit at the store recently.  Even though they weren’t bonafide Texas Ruby Red grapefruit, they were large and ripe and I thought they would make a nice addition to the next day’s breakfast.

I like grapefruit but I don’t like the white, bitter pith and I don’t like the membranes between the segments.  I wasn’t a big fan of grapefruit until I discovered that I could cut away the parts that I didn’t like!  I started by cutting the top and bottom off, just to the point where I could see the fruit beneath.  Then I used a sharp kitchen knife to spiral cut the rind, deeply enough to get beneath the pith.  Then I cut the segments, sliding the knife along the sides of the membrane, leaving nothing but pristine segments.  This takes some practice but it’s definitely worth the effort.

2. Citrus Aromatic

I decided to use the grapefruit rinds to make a citrus aromatic on the stovetop.  It’s an easy thing to do and it makes the entire house smell fantastic.  I heated a pot of water and added some star anise, a cinnamon stick and a crushed nutmeg seed.  Just as I was about to toss the grapefruit rinds into the pot I had an idea.  I could use the rinds to make candied ginger and still use the top and bottom pieces of the grapefruit for the aromatic pot.

3.  Candied Grapefruit Peels

Once the aromatic pot was simmering, I sliced the grapefruit rinds into thin strips. I boiled the rinds three times in water, to remove some of the bitterness and then I made a simple syrup, using 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  I brought the syrup to a boil while whisking.

I added the cut grapefruit rinds to the syrup and simmered them at low heat for about 20 minutes.  Once the rinds turned  translucent, I moved them to a wire rack to dry for about 4 hours.  On a dry day, they might have dried in an hour but the humidity was high and they took most of the day to dry.  After a few hours I dredged the pieces in sugar and then I returned them to the rack.  An hour later, I tossed them in sugar again and let them finish drying on the wire rack.

I was left with 1 cup of grapefruit flavored simple syrup.  Being the frugal sort of cook that I am, I devised a plan to use the syrup. 

 4.  Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup cornstarch

2 lbs chicken thighs, skinned and deboned

1 cup cooking oil

For the sauce:

1 cup simple syrup (from the candied grapefruit)

1 cup ketchup

1 ½ Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp rice vinegar

For the stir-fry:

1 Tbs cooking oil

½ tsp sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 Tbs fresh ginger, minced

½ lb broccoli florets

3 green onions, chopped

2 large carrots, sliced diagonally

2 large, mild jalapeños, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup cilantro

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch and flour.  Whisk to combine.  Remove half of the flour mixture and set aside. 

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and debone.  Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Add the chicken to the bowl containing half of the cornstarch and flour.  Toss to coat the chicken.  Leave the chicken in the flour dredge for 10 minutes.

Prepare a wok by adding  1 cup of cooking oil and set the heat to high.

Add remaining flour to the chicken and toss to coat. 

Add the chicken to the hot oil, a little at a time.  Fry the chicken until crispy, golden brown. 

Remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.

Remove the oil from the wok and wipe the wok clean with a paper towel. 

Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Add 1 Tbs cooking oil and ½ tsp sesame oil to a hot wok.  Add the garlic and ginger and simmer for a few seconds. 

Add the vegetables and stir-fry until the vegetables are tender.   Remove the vegetables to a bowl and keep warm.

Add the sauce to the wok at medium heat.  Once the sauce begins to bubble, add the chicken and stir to coat. 

Add the vegetables and stir to combine.  Turn out to a large serving bowl.

Top with cilantro and serve in bowls with steamed jasmine rice.

Happy Holidays!