Friday, December 7, 2012

Not precisely as per recipe...

I've been trying to prevent myself from getting near the end of the challenge and finding I have a whole pile of awkward recipes (e.g. chutneys, sauces, sweets and similar) left to do. I've been so successful in this, that when I  recently grouped the remaining recipes into categories, I found that in fact, by far the biggest category was those recipes that could be used in everyday meals - meals like chicken and orange casserole (p136).

This casserole uses chicken pieces, by which I assume bone-in is meant. I hadn't really noticed before, but the supermarket chicken section is a bit thin on the bone-in pieces these days. I ended up just getting some drums.

I started the casserole by browning the drums - this took longer than the 'quickly brown all over' in the recipe indicated, but when they finally had a bit of colour on them, I took them out and set them aside. I hit a hurdle at the next step: what's the first thing you put in a casserole? Onion. Now, name something that Robyn thought she had in her pantry but didn't...

If you guessed 'onion', you're right. I contemplated the situation for a moment, then took the slightly eccentric step of substituting fresh onion for pickled. I chopped a couple of these up and added them to the pan with some chopped celery.

Since I couldn't really cook 'until onion is clear', I just left it on the heat, stirring occasionally, while I prepared the remaining ingredients. When the celery looked like it had lost some of its crunch, I added orange juice and rind, chicken stock, cinnamon and allspice. Since I still haven't got around to getting any ground allspice, I just bunged a whole one in and picked it out later.

With these ingredients combined in the pan, I put the chicken back in, stuck a lid on, and let it cook over a low heat for half an hour or so while I tidied up the kitchen. After about 20 minutes, most of the liquid had cooked out and the chicken was surrounded by a sort of brown paste with chunks of celery in it. Hmm. I put a little more stock in and left it for the rest of the cooking time.

I figured this was the kind of dish you eat with rice, but I couldn't really be bothered cooking any. Instead, I heated some of the leftover chicken stock and made couscous. Then, feeling like I didn't have enough greens on the plate, I stirred some salad mix through it. When I added the chicken, with its accompanying celery-dominant gloop, to the plate, it really wasn't a good match with the couscous.

Never mind: I tucked into the chicken, which was (for once) cooked through, well flavoured and surprisingly moist. The 'sauce', on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. It had a reasonable flavour from the spices (though it did not taste markedly like orange) but there was too much of that sad, soggy celery and not enough of anything else. 

I'd finished my dinner and was about to tidy away my plate when I realised there was a step to the recipe I'd forgotten. You're supposed to mix vinegar and cornflour and add it to the pan when the chicken's nearly cooked, then heat until this mixture thickens the sauce. Well, my 'sauce' didn't really need thickening - it was almost a paste already. Still, I can't help wondering how this casserole might have tasted if I'd actually got it right!

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