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Roast Chicken, 2008/05/25:15:57

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Garlic-Free and Onion-Free Recipes!

Cooking is a dying art, and I would like to help keep it alive. Cooking extremely delicious food is really not hard at all, and need never involve any member of the Allium genus. I am going to prove this to you, one recipe at a time.

Why is there garlic and onions in everything? Why does it seem that as time goes by, there is an increasing amount of these rank odors in prepared foods, whether from restaurants or from boxes? Why, when I use Google to search on "I hate garlic and onions", do I get hundreds of results that say things like, "Even if you believe that you hate garlic, you'll love these Garlic Brownies!"

Garlic brownies!? What is wrong with you people?

It's bad enough when people put garlic in meat or vegetable dishes. But dessert too, now?

My hypothesis is that most people have really poor senses of taste and smell, while most people also can't cook food so that it tastes or smells good. Ramping up the garlic and onions is an attempt to make people with dull senses think that your prepared food is more interesting than those of other packaged-food manufacturers or restaurants. Unfortunately for me, in a way, this is right. Because these foods usually don't contain other flavorings or are prepared in the least flavor-inducing way possible, the garlic does make the food smellier and the onions do make it both smellier and tastier.

But there are other ways to make food delicious. Use good cooking methods and use adequate spices and flavorings. In my opinion, garlic doesn't add anything to food other than stench and bad memories for the next few days. Onions do add taste, and I actually like the taste, but I find it isn't worth the smell of onions in the house, on my clothes and skin, and in my body for days after eating them. And none of my rude, outspoken friends have ever eaten at my home and then told me that my dish could have been alot better if it had had onions or garlic in it. No one even notices that they aren't present in my food. That's because they aren't nearly as important as you might think, after eating in several restaurants or scanning recipes online.

For the few people out there who cook at least some of their own meals, and most especially for the ones who also hate garlic or onions or both, here are some tricks.

Stock a variety of spices and critical enhancing ingredients in your kitchen as soon as may be! This is an emergency! Spices in bottles can be ridiculously expensive ($4-$7 per bottle is not unexpected), but if flavor in your food is important to you, it's worth it. And if you are lucky enough to have a neighborhood store where spices are sold bulk, the price drops dramatically--you can get 2 bulk ounces of a spice for a tenth of the price it would cost in a 2 ounce bottle. You can also occasionally find large plastic bottles of spices on sale in odd places, such as the drug store; and the "foreign foods" aisle in some grocery stores have racks of spices in celophane bags.

An awful way to cook, for a busy person like me, is to take a recipe to the store and buy all the ingredients on the list. I want to walk into the kitchen any time and be able to make something excellent from scratch. Here are some essential ingredients that I always need on hand.

Plain Dry Spices:

ginger powder
cayenne pepper
black pepper powder
clove powder
cocoa powder

Dry Spice Mixes:

Poultry Seasoning (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!)
Thai Seasoning (probably has a little garlic--what doesn't?)
Vegesal (has a tiny amount of onion, just so they can say it does)
Old Bay (by McCormick)
Chicken bullion powder

Other Critical Consumables

soy or tamari Sauce
corn starch
baking soda
baking powder
lemon juice, vinegar, or dry wine
asian cooking wine or dry sherry
olive oil

Other important ingredients for a dish or whole meal tend to be purchased fresh, on a monthly or several-monthly basis. I usually buy meats in bulk (chicken breasts, ground beef, fish pieces, shrimp, squid), divide them into raw individual servings (one pre-seasoned hamburger or chicken piece per foldover sandwich baggie), and freeze them all. I buy whole chickens and roast them, take them apart, and immediately freeze the cut-up meat in Ziplock freezer bags.

Important Equipment

stainless steel frying pan and metal spatula
large, lightweight enamel roaster with a lid
sturdy aluminum foil (Reynolds Wrap)

Too many people rely solely on nonstick pans these days. These are fine for some applications, and almost indispensible for things like omlettes and scrambled eggs. But there is a problem with them: they don't brown most foods in the tastiest way, and they don't allow proper "glazing" of the pan. Glazing is when the juices of a food leak out and stick to the pan. This stuck-on juice is extremely useful because it is concentrated deliciousness. You can sautee vegetables in it; coat cooked noodles or rice with it; make a sauce or gravy with it; flavor tomato sauce with it; or even make soup out of it if you have enough of it, as you would get from roasting a chicken or turkey. Glazing is one of my most basic techniques, one that I employ almost every time I cook dinner. I simply can't make most of my best dishes with a nonstick pan.

The roaster is on this very basic list because it is so versatile. Obviously, you can roast a turkey or a chicken or two or three in it. But you can also use it to: season and mix 10 pounds of hamburger and make it into patties; simmer several quarts of soup or jambalaya; bake lasagna or other casseroles; mix cake batter; and if you are really living a minimalist kitchen life, make cakes, brownies, or pie in it. Because of its size and shape, it's also useful for collecting greens from the garden, washing vegetables, doing handwash, dyeing clothing, and washing dishes. You get the picture. It's a good investment for less than $20.

So without further ado, here's one of my favorite and easiest recipes for the tastiest, tenderest roast chicken you've ever had, no basting whatsoever and not a garlic clove or an onion ring in sight. Pre-cooking preparation time approximately 2 to 5 minutes:

Roast Chicken, Carolyn-Style

1 whole chicken
poultry seasoning
Vegesal (or plain salt)
black pepper powder (finely ground)
cayenne pepper (optional)
root vegetables, celery (optional)

In your cleaned sink, open the plastic bag. Dump the organs out, rinse them in cold water, and put them in the bottom of the roaster. Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water, just in case there were any bacteria hanging around. Put the chicken in the roaster, breast-side up (the ends of the legs will be sticking up). WASH YOUR HANDS AND THE SINK with hot water and soap. Now apply seasonings. You can tilt the pan to reach the sides of the chicken. Don't worry about the bottom, and try not to dump spices in the pan itself. Sprinkle on salt or Vegesal, more than you would use on your plate; you can always add more at the table. Do a fine dusting of cayenne pepper if you're using it. Do a heavier dusting of black pepper. Finally, lay on a coating of about 1/16th of an inch of poultry seasoning. Put the lid on the roaster. Put the roaster in the oven. Super-simple method: Set oven to 350F, and ignore for the next hour and 15 minutes. Much better method: Blast the oven at 500F for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 and bake for 1 hour. Super-wonderful method: after about 1/2 hour of baking, add large chunks of potatoes, carrots, celery, beets, rutabaga.

After 1.5 hours, take the pan out of the oven and set it on the stove. Don't you throw that rich juice and glazing away! If your health or your religion require it, ladle out the fat and put it in an empty tin can that you keep in your fridge (more environmentally friendly than pouring it down the sink). Move the chicken (and vegetables) to a plate. Then make soup, or gravy in one of two ways:

Cornstarch Gravy (method 1)

Add 2 cups of water and powdered creamer, or milk, to the roaster. Heat to boiling. Meanwhile, n a small cup, mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and half a cup of water. With a metal spoon, quickly stir cornstarch mixture into roaster, scraping the bottom.

Flour Gravy (method 2)

Add 2 tablespoons of flour directly to the roast. With a metal fork, mash the flour into the juice until you no longer see white powder. Add two cups of water and powdered creamer, or milk, and simmer until thickened.

After your meal, cut all the meat off the bones and store it in the freezer; you will need it for future recipes such as chicken pot pie or fettucine alfredo. If you have opted for soup instead of gravy, save the bones in the roaster in the fridge until tomorrow, when you will boil the bones and then add vegetables. But that's another recipe....
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