Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roast Chicken and Extreme Ratatouille

Everything you need to make an extreme ratatouille
Tonight I made another 'brick' or pressed roast chicken. This is simply a spatchcocked chicken (cut out the back bone), and splay it in a cast iron pan with lots of salt and pepper. Put a second, heavy cast iron pan on top of the chicken so that it is squashed (or pressed) between the two pans. Put it on a high fire, and start skin side down, then flip it after about 8 minutes and put some foil down on it and then put the top or 'press' pan back on it. Put the whole works in a hot oven (400 F) for about 20 minutes - this is about the fastest way  to cook a whole chicken. If you're wondering what happend to the backbone, wonder no more. I tossed it in to a very small sauce pan with two bay leaves and enough water to cover. I boiled the heck out of that for a good 20 minutes, and then seasoned to taste. Viola, instant stock. I used this little stock to cook some basmati rice which I served with the chicken.

In the mean time, I prepared an accompanying dish that I called 'extreme' ratatouille. That is, I use the usual onion, zucchini and tomato (I didn't have an eggplant today, so no eggplant), and I replaced the typical sweet bell pepper with a bunch of hot red chillies. I also added whole fennel seeds and roughly chopped scallion (see pic above for the ingredients). With the scallion and chillies, there is almost an Asian feel to this ratatouille. I suppose you could just call it a vegetable sautee (any Frenchman worth his fleur de sel, would tell me this is NO ratatouille). But I love the fact I can call it whatever I want. That's power. Also, I'm well aware that a really traditional ratatouille is a vegetable 'stew' that has cooked for hours. I am more interested in a more modern approach for which the vegetables are sauteed briefly till al dente and they still retain their original shape. Anyway, this is what I did:

Chop up the the vegetables to your liking. I do half-inch thick disks for the zucchini, big chunky slices of red onion, and the chili and scallions are cut on the bias, include the seeds and the skin - I like it hot. Put a bit of oil in the bottom of a really large skillet and once hot, drop in a few whole fennel seeds. When the seeds start to pop a bit,  add the zucchini, onion and chilies. Frizzle these for a good 8-10 minutes until they start to get a bit soft. Deglaze with a bit of white wine and add a pinch of dried oregano if you like (it brings the Asian flavours back to Europe somewhat). When the wine burns off, I add in two roughly chopped vine tomatoes. After the tomatoes start to break down, I tossed in a good handful of roughly chopped parsley a few pickled capers. Follow this up with a substantial amount of salt (taste constantly to make sure it is to your liking). Then kill the heat and leave everything in the pan for a couple of moments. Then assemble your dish - chicken, ratatouille and rice. Garnish the ratatouille with the microgreen of your choice. I also bashed up an avocado for the kids who probably would have found the ratatouille a little too 'extreme' for their liking. It WAS hot, but in a really good way. There was a tiny bit of left over stock that I put back on to the heat and whisked in a bit of Dijon mustard - instant Jus! The wife made her usual awesome salad to accompany.

Life is good.

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