THE DOMINO EFFECT: DAY ONE
After having thoroughly explored all the intricacies of the theoretical side of "The Domino Effect", it is now time to put it into practice. You can start wherever you like, but we started with a roast chicken, so that is what I will tell you about today.
If you have been patient enough to read the theory you might now be wondering why on Earth you need to go over another recipe for roast chicken, which is probably the world's most documented dish. Bear with me because I will try to convince you that there is, in fact, a reason to post another recipe for roast chicken, that all has not already been said and that you can make a humble bird more interesting by following some very simple instructions.
I have to admit that, as with most things, I'm just the messenger. I wasn't the one to come up with the brilliant technique - it's quite difficult to come up with something completely new that has never been done in whatever field you are interested in, let alone cooking, but I am happy enough to have found a gem of a recipe to pass along, with a few comments and anecdotes on how it went for me in the kitchen.
The recipe that started it all off is this one. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it. Crispy skin? yes! Chicken sliced in two to make cooking time faster? yes! Shallots floating around in the pan to make sure there will be enough moisture to have some lovely sauce in the end? yes!
The key to this recipe is to hack your chicken (free range) in two, remove the breastbone, put some marinade on the flesh side (and not the skin), cook the skin on a very hot pan before putting it into the oven, until the fat underneath it renders down and it gets crispy and then, and only then, put it in the oven with the rest of the ingredients. That way the flesh is supposed to be more moist and tender, the skin crispier and the whole thing should take much less time than cooking a traditional whole bird.
Ok, so that's the theory. In practice I didn't remember to tell my butcher to halve the chicken, so let's just say that I spent a few minutes hacking at my chicken with the biggest knife I have, punching it with my fists in between hacks hoping that the bones that were resisting the knife would break under my huge strength. By the time I finally managed to halve my chicken I wasn't prepared to ruin the whole thing by trying to remove the breastbone with my lack of expertise, so I just took the baking time as a guideline and judged the chicken's doneness as I always do: by pricking the point between the leg and the breast with a knife, making sure that the juices that run out are clear and that I don't see any pink skin underneath. Until that happens, keep roasting!
Apart from my butchering experience, which was actually oddly satisfying, the whole thing went pretty smoothly. Cooking the chicken skin side down in a pan or skillet before putting it in the oven is something I will try to always do from now on. Not only because of the crispness of the skin, but also because I think you manage to render down some fat that is lying underneath that skin and that the oven doesn't manage to get to.
What you see right at the edges of the pictures, sitting next to the chicken, are the potato mash and carrot, apple and cabbage salad I made alongside it. These two things don't really need a recipe, just a few instructions and adjustment according to one's taste. We have all made potato mash at least once and the only secret is really the compromise between taste and texture and guilt which in the kitchen is translated into "how much fat do I put in this?". The salad, however, is very simple but delicious. Ok, there aren't many pictures to tempt you to make it and it doesn't sound very exciting, but it is! It is the kind if thing you make once thinking it won't blow your mind but then you taste it and you think "hey, that's god". Then you keep tasting it, you keep coming back for more and suddenly it's finished and you find yourself making it again a few days later. It's especially good served alongside something more substantial or fatty.
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• ½ cup fresh mint leaves
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more for serving
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more
• 1 3½–4 chicken, halved, breast bone removed
• 8 small shallots, peeled, root ends trimmed
1. Pulse garlic, mint, oil, and 1 cup parsley in a food processor until very finely chopped; season with 1 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and spread herb paste over flesh side. Place, skin side up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet; chill at least 3 hours (the drier the skin, the crisper it’ll get).
3. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 425°. Pat chicken dry and place, skin side down, in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron. Set over medium-high heat and cook, undisturbed, until skin is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
4. Add shallots to skillet and transfer to oven. Roast, turning shallots once, 20–25 minutes. Turn skin side up and roast until skin is very crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 160°, 8–10 minutes longer. Serve chicken with shallots, parsley, and any pan juices.
5. Chicken can be rubbed with herb paste 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
Recipe from Bon Appétit
Everybody knows how to make potato mash and I didn't stop and measure my ingredients while doing it, so I will just give you the basic steps I remember. To start off, I peeled and cut into pieces quite a few potatoes. I boiled them in a pot of water until very tender. After that I drained them, mashed them with my potato masher in the same pot and added a good glug of milk and several good gluts of olive oil. Some people use butter, but I opted for olive oil. The amount to use depends on how silky you want your mash to be. You can also leave a bit of the water in which you boiled the potatoes in the pot to help you mash them without using too much fat. It is just a matter of taste: more milk, more olive oil, a drier mash or a more moist one?. To finish it all off, season to taste (again) with salt and pepper.
A kind of light winter coleslaw
As I said above, this salad doesn't appear centre stage in all the pictures, but it is so easy to make, so refreshing and so wonderful that you have to make it. I usually vary the amounts of the ingredients depending on what I have to hand. There is always a bunch of carrots (but there could be three or six), some red cabbage (I like to use less of this than of carrots, but that is just me) and one of those very tart and very green apples. You grate your fruit and vegetables into a bowl, and the only thing left for you to do is to make the dressing. The dressing should be sweet and sour, so I use olive oil, wine vinegar or lemon juice, salt and a bit of brown sugar. Once you pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix everything to coat every strand of vegetable or fruit with a bit of dressing, I have been known to add some herbs if I have some lying around. Mint works well because it adds some freshness, but I guess you could improvise with others.