Before I started blogging, the word gluten free was just a label I read on food products. My only understanding of it was a diet where one has to avoid gluten. It was after I started following blogs like Jenn Cuisine, I learned how such food is prepared, what kind of substitutes are used and most importantly how food can taste and look as gorgeous even when they are gluten free. Jenn is not only a fabulous blogger and photographer, she is a generous and kind friend. If you haven't come across her photography series yet, check it now, they are very helpful and detailed.
I was so honored when Kulsum asked me to write this guest post for you today! Kulsum and I have become friends across the blogosphere - we have gotten to know each other through our love of food and that of food photography. She is such a sweetheart and I am constantly in awe of the gorgeous posts and recipes she shows!
One thing I love about cooking is that it can mean so many different things to different people. Never having been to culinary school or prepared food professionally, for me the act of cooking food has always been about the "discovery". Just sort of trying things as I go is pretty much how I taught myself to cook. Most of my learning has been from playing with flavors and techniques, and seeing what works and what doesn't. Recipes are not so common while I'm in the kitchen, at least when it comes to dinner. If it "feels" right, I go for it. "A little of this" and "a little of that" are perfectly legitimate ingredient quantities in my home.
Maybe it comes from the fact that I was such a "late bloomer", because it wasn't until my early 20s that I actually started cooking on my own (how I somehow missed this vital education about preparing food when I lived with my parents, I have no clue). I had no idea of basic methods or techniques and so a bit of "improvisation" came in. Or maybe it has been my experience cooking for my gluten free husband, as so many dishes need several substitutions. Or maybe, it is from our lives as grad students with little money, often playing the "how do we use up the random foods we have before they go bad" game. However it happened, I'm content with my carefree if not somewhat unconventional way of cooking. I draw upon memories, experiences, friends, family and locations for inspiration more often than recipes from cookbooks,
and see what comes to my mind.
I think this is one reason why I love to roast chicken - one, it's not too complicated, and two, one can choose from a myriad of flavors to enhance the dish so you are free to use whatever strikes your fancy and not have to worry so much about exact measurements either. And indeed, one can find roast chicken recipes spanning various methods and spices across the globe, from the Americas to Europe to Asian cuisines. For this particular dinner, I was inspired by my recent trip to La Bourgogne, France where I learned that nearly anything can be cooked with mustard. La moutarde is a specialty of the region, and it's easy to see why it has been incorporated into so many French dishes, giving a spicy zing to just about everything it is used with. We brought back some of the famous moutarde to our little apartment here en Suisse, and ever since I have been using it pretty much any
way I can.
So here is a roast chicken inspired by one of my favorite ingredients from France, in a method taught to me by my mother on one of those frantic phone conversations one night in grad school as she revealed to me the secret to the perfect roast chicken - butter, babysitting, and more butter. This chicken is basted in an herbed mustard butter, diligently attended to, and anything but dry. The mustard does not dominate over the flavor of the meat, but blends in well with the butter and herbs. Other tricks she taught me were to stuff leftover herbs along with aromatic vegetables like onions, and even citrus into the bird to help keep it moist as well as add yummy aromas to the kitchen. Also, adding a little water to the pan (and then setting a metal rack inside the pan for the chicken to rest on while it's cooking) will help keep the humidity up in the oven.
Both my husband and I had a lot of fun creating this chicken recipe together with ingredients inspired by our travels, bringing back memories of our idyllic little journey to the French Bourgogne countryside. It may not be exactly like anything we tasted in France, but sent us right back to a certain meal in a little café, and for that, the roast chicken was just perfect, reminding us of our fun culinary discoveries along the way.
Herbed Butter and Mustard Roasted Chicken
100g (8oz) butter, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 spears rosemary, leaves removed from stems and diced small handful thyme, leaves removed from stems and diced
2 tbs dijon style mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 chicken, cleaned, cavity emptied more herbs for stuffing inside the bird
1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). In a small bowl combine with a fork butter, garlic, onion, herbs, mustard, salt and pepper.
2. Rub chicken all over with 1/2 of the butter mixture (and under the skin too), and stuff the extra herbs inside the cavity and truss the
3. Place the chicken in a roasting pan - I insert a metal rack in the pan so that the chicken isn't sitting directly in its juices as it roasts. I also pour about 1/2 cup of water into the pan to help keep the oven moist as the chicken roasts.
4. Let roast an appropriate time depending on the size of your bird. Every 15 minutes rub more butter on the chicken and baste with its juices. Chicken is done when juices run clear, and a meat thermometer inserted into the breast of the bird reads 160F (71C).
For our 1.2 kg bird, this took about 1 hr 15 minutes. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving (it will continue cooking as it rests and you want the temp to reach 165F (74C)).