Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Bone to Pick with You!

Our time spent in the Production kitchen with Chef Janet has been a great education in and of itself. We had the opportunity to make a duck liver pate using the sous vide cooking method. Chef showed us how to clean the liver and remove the veins and with her instruction I prepared a cure of salt, a tiny bit of sugar and some Armagnac and carefully coated the liver with the mixture. Chef then shaped the duck liver into a log and rolled it in parchment paper and then plastic wrap.

Chef brought a circulator into the kitchen, the machinery looked like something you would attach to an aquarium to filter the water. We filled a deep hotel pan with hot water and placed the circulator into the water. Chef turned on the machine and it gave us an instant read on the water temperature. After explaining and showing us how the circulator worked Chef programmed the temperature she wanted and we waited for the water to come to 65 degrees Celsius. The pate was tied off at both ends to ensure no water could get in and then submerged into the circulating water. The circulator basically circulates the water around the food item and keeps a constant temperature so even cooking is achieved. The pate cooked in this manner (sous vide) for a little over an hour afterwards we quick chilled it and let the flavors meld in the refrigerator for a few days.

Next, we learned how to remove all the bones from a chicken while keeping the integrity of the body and meat. Using our boning knife we carefully scraped down the inner bones away from the outside flesh. The process begins by removing the wing tips, wishbone, and then starting with the bones at the neck you work your way through to remove the major bones in the wings and upper cavity. Turning your chicken around and going through the back end we remove the thighbones and the leg bones. Lastly, removing the rib cage, breastbone and backbone is the trickiest part since the meat is the thinnest on the backside. Once that is complete the chicken is ready to be stuffed with anything from your culinary imagination.

I wanted to use ground pork as my base stuffing and I complemented that with Thai chili sauce, water chestnuts, aromatics (carrots/onions/shallots/garlic), shiitake mushrooms, mint, Thai basil and a little cilantro. With time running out I decided to take the items home to serve for dinner and just sauté the stuffing at school so I could use it already cooked.

Last night, I stuffed the chicken right before I was ready to roast it – and by using toothpicks and kitchen twine I carefully closed both ends of the bird. I made sure that the stuffing registered at 145 degrees on my thermometer before I took it out of the oven and ensured the crispy skin was golden, layered with lots of seasonings. After a short rest, I sliced the chicken like a roast and each slice exposed the spicy pork stuffing inside. The novelty of a boneless stuffed chicken opened up my mind to lots of different ideas for stuffing like a pork tenderloin surrounded by mushroom duxelles. Dinner was delicious accompanied by garlicky string beans splashed with soy and a peppery Arugula salad with vine ripe tomatoes. A dish I will certainly make again and again.

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