Black & white spells magic
The past four months in Canada have been a real bliss. However, I would be lying if I say that I don’t miss and think about India every day. What I miss is my parents, my wife (she should be here by the weekend) and a few friends and what I think about is Ajit, my driver and man Friday.
More than friends (no offence meant) a thought about Ajit crosses my mind every day, especially in the evenings. Though I love to drive my newly acquired Toyota SUV, speeding on the freeway at 110 kms/hr in the company of greats like Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali, Rabbi Shergill, Kailash Kher and Mehdi Hassan, all singing at my ‘command’ over Siri, I remember Ajit when the urge to have a drink or two at a Pub crosses my mind. Five words, “Oye Ajit chal club chaliye”, were enough to make a great evening in India but alas it doesn’t happen here.
So, most of my evenings here are spent at home ‘dry’, as somehow I cannot fathom the thought of having a great dinner at a nice swanky place without my favourite single malt whisky, Glenfiddich.
However, things are changing, as my son has now started driving. I had my first wet ‘night out’ last Saturday at Mongolian Grill and had some simple but yet an amazing food. The grill’s, all you can eat concept works on creation of your own fresh stir-fry. You choose your ingredients from an array of fresh raw vegetables, the meats, the seasoning, the pastas and the sauces. The same are then stir-fried in front of you on a huge “roaring hot griddle’ to make your own meal.
The entire cooking process is also worth seeing, the cooking crew, juggling their wooden sticks, and stirring your ingredients continuously to make a sumptuous savoury meal.
The assortment of spices and seasoning salts was so vast that it left me confused. As I read the names, many of which I didn’t even know, the advice of an unknown chef, whose video I saw on the net, that spices should be kept to the minimum to allow the actual taste of meats and vegetables to come out struck me.
With just powdered garlic salt and pepper, I seasoned my choice of mushrooms, beans, sprouts, shrimps, chicken and fish, with a little vinegar, and handed it over to the cooking crew to work on it. In a few minutes I was handed back my meal that tasted “Just Great”. And what followed were several (won’t tell you how many) more permutations and combination but with the principal of keeping the spices minimum for the enhanced taste of the food.
While I was enjoying my peppery handiworks, I recalled my first visit to the US in 1999 when my Chef ‘chacha’, Vijay Thukral, used to get visibly irritated when I used to sprinkle great amounts of Tabasco sauce on the pasta that he made. In fact, he even once sarcastically told me, “edde begair vih kha kar vekh’ (try it without the sauce too).
However, with salt and pepper “hair” becoming my identity today, I do realise how much these two things mean in your food.
So here goes a tried and tasted simple recipe for Roasted/ Baked Chicken. Try it out. It’s great. I tried it without using an oven and still it was delicious.
- Chicken pieces (boneless/with bones but with Skin)
- Olive oil (enough to season the chicken and pan/baking dish)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper (as per taste. I used an extra dash of pepper)
- 1/2 cup of chicken stock* or white wine for the gravy (optional)
- Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces. Rub some olive oil on them and then sprinkle salt and pepper. Grease the roasting pan with olive oil and put the chicken pieces (skin up) in a single layer on it. Do not crowd the pan with chicken pieces.
- Put the pan in a preheated (400°C) and roast for about 25-30 mins. Then lower the heat to 350°C and cook for another 15 to 20 mins or till the inner temperature (use a food thermometer, which we rarely use in India) is 165°F and the juices from the chicken are flowing.
- Remove the chicken from the pan on a plate and cover it loosely with a tin foil for 5 to 10 mins.
- Take a metal spatula and scrape off (deglaze) everything from the backing tray and transfer contents to a frying pan.
- Mix in white wine (about half a glass) into the drippings and stir to desired consistency over low heat. You can also add little corn flour to thicken the sauce.
- Pour sauce over the chicken and serve.
I tried this in a frying pan over the gas stove, with skinless breast pieces, and achieved great results. But the trick is to use aluminium or an iron pan (no scrapings will come out of the non stick). Once the chicken is cooked to the desired temperature and brown, follow the same ritual to make the sauce. Instead of wine you can use chicken stock (try the Maggie cube). I also some added some vegetables by sautéing them in a separate pan in little bit garlic and ginger. Before serving, I put the vegetables first and then placed the roasted chicken on it. Finish it with the glazed thick sauce.
Till the next post its bon appetite.
(Raveen Thukral is a veteran journalist and foodie. His forte has been writing on crime and he has been at the helm of major news/media companies in India).