THE SMELL OF ROASTING
MANILA, MAY 5, 2009 (STAR) EAT'S EASY By Ernest Reynoso Gala - ["If God grants me longer life, I will see to it that no peasant in my kingdom will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot every Sunday". — Henri IV of France, in Claudia Roden’s Picnic (1981)]
Spanish cuisine is world renowned for its rich flavor, aromatic scent and ease of cooking; therefore it was no surprise that when Mom returned from Madrid, she brought home with her pollo Iberico, or the well-loved Spanish chicken. Through the years the recipe has been updated and improved upon, making it one of her signature dishes shared with family and close friends. Two weeks ago, QTV’s Secrets of the Masters featured her as their special guest chef, and since Mom has no secrets, she decided to include this recipe as part of the lineup which included “melts in the mouth” roast beef, mouthwatering Andalusian fish embedded in rock salt, and her lip-smacking Mediterranean salad. The show was successful and our website was flooded with requests. As Mom likes to say, “Live well, eat well, cook well,” and may this gastronomic indulgence inspire and continue to bring smiles to the dinner table.
The heart and soul basics of Spanish cooking are olive oil and garlic. Without these ingredients, it would not be considered Spanish food. The skin of the garlic is often used to intensify the taste, making it more pronounced and robust. Garlic also helps lower blood pressure and may alleviate nasal congestion. Peppercorns and rock salt are used because they gently blend with the chicken while roasting, a method of slow cooking inside the oven. Paprika, a spice consisting of a variety of sweet red chili peppers, is also used, its taste varying from sweet to moderately hot. Rosemary is a shrub found in the Mediterranean and its needle-like leaves are often roasted with meat. Rosemary, incidentally, means “dew of the sea,” although many say it also means “rose of the Virgin Mary.” Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics considered rosemary a symbol of death while the Greeks and Romans believe it to represent love. Basil is an herb that is part of the mint family and found all over the world; it is extensively used in Mediterranean cuisine. The word “basil” means royal and was used by the ancient Greeks in religious sacraments. Often accompanying basil is oregano, which is actually wild marjoram, but more pungent and peppery. Sesame oil is added to give extra flavor while soy sauce, made from naturally fermented flour and soybeans, adds a darker color.
When buying chicken, the meat must be soft and tender as tougher texture means an older chicken. The tip of the wings should not be yellow because this indicates older stock.
Remove the neck, wing tips and tail, and wash well. Separate the skin from the flesh by inserting your fingers in between or use a spoon. For commercial purposes, use an air pump for easy separation. Mix the marinade in a bowl and add five spoonfuls of it between skin and breast, rubbing the chicken all the way down to the legs so the marinade spreads. Invert the chicken completely and place another five spoonfuls of marinade in between skin and backside, and another two spoons on the cavity area. Rub the remaining mixture on top. Tie the legs with string and fix the wings to their proper positions.
Transfer the bird to cellophane paper and tie the top loosely. Cellophane paper will keep it moist and juicy, with plenty of drippings. Place the chicken on a tray and put inside the oven to roast for 90 minutes at a preheated 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees centigrade). This will also speed up the cooking process as the chicken will self-marinate while inside the bag.
After 90 minutes, cut open cellophane, expose, and return chicken to oven to roast for another 15 minutes. Insert meat thermometer and check if the inside temperature is 180ºF. If a meat thermometer is unavailable, poke the legs with a fork or knife; if the blood inside is black, it is cooked. You can also shake the chicken legs with your hands; if there is no resistance, it is done. If cellophane is unavailable use a brown paper bag and tie loosely with string. Serve with baked baby potatoes; two halved fresh lemons and parley sprigs.
Roast Spanish Chicken (Pollo Iberico)
2 Magnolia chickens (separate skin from flesh)
2 heads garlic pounded with skin on
3 tbsps. peppercorns
2 tbsps. paprika
3 tbsps. soy sauce
2 tsps. sesame oil
1 cup olive oil or any vegetable oil
1 tsp. rosemary leaves,
1/2 tsp. each of basil and oregano
2 tbsps. rock salt
Mix all ingredients and spread marinade inside and outside of chicken. Tie legs, transfer to cellophane and tie loosely with string. Transfer to tray and roast for 90 minutes. Open cellophane and continue roasting for another 15 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to serving platter. Add one-half roasted potatoes.
Discovery of the Week
You will lick your lips while reading the menu of Old Vine Grille by Chef’s Quarte. Crowd favorites include the Tessie Tomas prawn salad, cream dory with pasta, and the well-loved French onion soup. Innovative must-trys are the fork-tender lamb spareribs with curry sauce, the prawn bisque that is full of flavor, and — my personal favorite — escargots. Value for money, well thought-out, and beautifully presented. Congratulations to Larry Cortez and Chef Mao for a job well done!
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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