Tuesday 11 November 2014

Roasted Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Sautéed Heirloom Brussels Sprouts, Romanesco & Bacon (Technique)

In my last post I made Mo Shu pork, which I had researched and thoroughly planned out before heading to the farmer's market (and Chinatown) to pick up my ingredients. This dish differs in the sense that it was entirely unplanned. I had picked up a beautiful head of romanesco and a pint of purple heirloom brussels sprouts while I was at the market. I thought it might make a fun technique post to show you what I did to put this dish together. The chicken doesn't look all that exciting but it was tasty and you'll see why. Seeing romanesco and purple brussels sprouts at the market was like being a pirate who found treasure. Romanesco is a little easier to find but heirloom "brussies" are practically mythical from what I've seen. This dinner was a good use of some special seasonal vegetables.

Let's start with the romanesco. It's probably the coolest looking vegetable in the world. it's light green and the florets grow in a bizarre fractal, spiky pattern. The flavour and texture is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. It can be prepared any way that you would either vegetable. 


There are several ways you can chop a romanesco. You could slice it down the middle or keep it whole and roast it in the oven. You could cut thick slices and grill or sear them like a piece of meat. In this demo, I am cutting off some of the individual florets before halving them. 

The brussels sprouts are exactly what you would expect if you're familiar with them, just that the leaves are partially or completely dark purple. 

To prep brussels sprouts, give them a good wash, remove the first layer or two of leaves and any that are yellowing or going off in any way. Then trim off the bottom of the stem. From here I usually halve my brussels sprouts but quite a few in this batch very quite small so I left them whole. 

To make the veggie side dish, I started by blanching the romanesco parts in simmering salted water for a couple of minutes. Then I drained them and set them aside. They will continue to cook as they as they steam but if you want to stop the cooking process then dump them in a bucket of ice water. When they're no longer warm (which will only take about a minute) proceed with straining them.

I chopped six rashers of streaky, smoked bacon and added them to a warm pan with a tbsp of olive oil. A lot of fat will render out of the bacon so you don't need much oil at all. Over medium heat I dried the bacon until they were nice and crispy.

When I was happy with the crispiness level of the bacon pieces I used a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel to drain. 

I reserved the bacon aside. I turned the heat of the pan down just a notch and added a small, diced red onion to the bacon fat. I seasoned with salt and pepper, but was very modest with the salt because the bacon fat already has a salty flavour. Depending on your taste you may not add any additional salt at all, but personally I like it with just a touch more. Then it was just a matter of slowly sautéeing the onion until they became nice and soft. At any point you may need to turn the heat back up to medium.

Then I added the brussels sprouts to the pan. I sautéed the mixture for a couple of minutes or until the brussels sprouts just started to go a little golden brown on the edges. At this point, you already have a tasty brussels sprouts side dish, but we're adding romanesco to this version.

I added the blanched romanesco pieces and sautéed everything until essentially the romanesco warmed through and began to caramelize...

The last step is to stir the cooked bacon back in and adjust the seasoning if necessary. 


For the chicken I preheated the oven to 375 F/190 C. I took a whole garlic bulb and sliced it in a horizontal cross section in half. I had two chicken legs so for each leg I rubbed the garlic all over the skin. This transfers garlic flavour directly onto the chicken skin. Then I brushed them lightly with olive oil and gave them a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. It is November and getting colder here in Toronto. I salvaged the very last of the rosemary from my garden and added that to the chicken on a roasting tray with the garlic halves.

After about 30 minutes in the oven and an internal temperature of 165 F/74 C the chicken was ready to be removed from the oven and left to rest for about five minutes before serving. 

This kind of cooking is the most fun. When you put a pile of ingredients in front of you and think, "what am I going to make out of this?" on the spot. I hope you learned some new techniques in this post or at least enjoyed it. Stay tuned because the next post is going to be fun. It's something I had never, ever done before. Be sure to check the blog out again soon to find out what it is!


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