Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Roasted Chicken with Hays and Straws

Yum

New York City – you amazing, smelly, vibrant, and scary piece of work. You are the one that got away that I never want in my life anymore. You are the beginning (of my immigrant life) and the end (of my safe bubble in Myanmar). When I first met you in 2008, I hated you so much for pushing me so outside of my comfort zone. What’s up with your smelly subways, people dressing up like statute of liberty, slushy winter snow, resting bitch faces and basement chicken coops that are called bedrooms? And, more importantly, what’s up with white people looking alike each other? (Ok, now I can tell them apart. And no, I am neither ignorant nor racist) It took me a while to get used to your eccentricity, but I thank you for teaching me two things – mail-order muscle-boosting pills do not work, and Costco rotisserie chicken can be good eats.

thanksgiving



My love affair with roasted chicken started out as an intense adventure, but ultimately establishes as a simmering comfort. Although a roasted bird on a Sunday dinner table is hailed as a sign of a healthy family, the dish is more of a celebratory treat in Myanmar, where a home-oven is unheard of. What I grew up with were wet concrete kitchen floors during the monsoon season, pitch black brick walls shielded with coal particulates, piles of woods and charcoal covered in plastics at the kitchen corners, and cement coal stoves holding bright red embers with sounds of occasional cracking fire.  

thanksgiving bird


Many of the Burmese cooking methods require direct heat contact – perfect for braising and stewing, but absolutely useless to cook an animal whole. Thus, growing up, the sight of a store-bought roasted poultry on the dining table meant along the line of birthdays, visits by important people (usually snobby distant relatives that you are trying to impress), mini lottery wins (mini because we never won anything big), or a big profit from our family’s business at the end of the month. Since young, I have learned that knowing when to celebrate is just as important as knowing when to work hard.

thanksgiving bird


Things changed suddenly when I moved to the United States, where cooking is easy and food is abundant. For instance, my mouth was literally left wide-gaped during my first Costco visit with my maternal grandfather, who has been living in NYC for almost 20 years.

“THEY GAVE OUT FOOD FOR FREE IN THE UNITED STATES?” I yelled.

“Shhh…don’t yell. It is embarrassing. These are called samples. Go eat but don’t buy anything,” my grandfather whispered back.

After eating sausage samples for the fifth time in a row, I decided to be civil and wandered around other parts of Costco. Part guided by instinct, but mostly by the gorgeous smell, I found myself suddenly staring at rows of roasted chicken packaged in their individual bags. I can confidently say for all third-world country immigrants that that the Costco chicken smell is the universal idea of the gastronomical heaven. I was suddenly hooked on roasted chicken.

thanksgiving bird
My newfound obsession with roasted chickens have led me to develop a patented method of eating the bird – a rhythmic sequence that is guaranteed to give you a maximal pleasure. Start by chewing on the wing tips – these tend to get mildly charred, crunchy and sticky. It is almost like eating a sticky toffee, except now the tips taste like….chicken. Then, I go straight for the tail – that little triangular looking bud at the behind. You may need to fight for that part if your another family member also has a thing for the musky behind. I just adore the fatty unctuousness. I then proceed to the flat parts of the wings. I just love how these flatties seem to have more fat than meat. Throw the drumstick parts of the wings away (or you can give then to your siblings with under-developed palate). The same rules apply for the leg part – yes to the thighs, and no to the drumsticks.

thanksgiving bird


Finally, if I am still hungry, I go for the breast, specifically for a soft tenderloin-y part that clings to the bone, to which I like to add a spritz of lime and a dash of fish sauce and chow down. The seasoning usually doesn’t reach that part, but what I am looking for is the soft caressing texture, drastically different from the chewy part I just so madly adore. 

thanksgiving bird


I always seem to appreciate more the things I like if I don’t get them all the time. I think this is the case with NYC for me. Although I deeply hated NYC when I first moved to the United States, now that I actually left the city, I found myself trying to look for pieces of it in wherever I am at the moment. But, I have come to accept that nothing on earth will ever be like the big apple. So, I roast chicken instead to collect those pieces (sorry, chicken).

thanksgiving bird


Notes on the recipe

The recipe is inspired from an episode on Alan Passsard from Chef’s Table, where he sewed together a half-chicken and a half-duck, and roasted the resulting Frankenstein with hay. I admitted I do not grow up eating a lot of roasted chicken, but I am very opinionated about how my roasted chicken should be – the skin must be bronzed and the meat has to be well-seasoned and succulent. So, it is imperative to get the temperature right, and season the bird well. There is nothing more disappointing in life than a bland chicken.

Please do try to get some good sweet-smelling organic hays and straws. You can buy both very cheap from your local animal feed store. Hays are usually animal feed, and have nutrients. They also tend to smell sweet. On the other hand, straws are usually used for animals’ bedding or recreation, and they tend to have more of a meadow-y aroma. When roasted, these unorthodox ingredients create addicting nutty floral notes that perfume not only the bird but also your kitchen. You will feel like a female protagonist in Nicholas Spark’s novels, running about in a golden meadow field.

You will see specks of straws and hays sticking to your chicken. That’s totally fine. Relax and take a deep breath. We are using straws and hays as spices. You don’t freak out when you see parsley on a chicken, do you?

Ingredients
  • 1 organic free range chicken (3-4 lbs. or about 1.5 kg)
  • 1 tbsp. of turmeric
  • 1 knob of ginger (about 1 oz. or 30g)
  • 1 head of garlic
  • Vegetable oil (100 ml or about 6 tbsps – divided half)
  • Hays and straws
  • Salt and pepper


Directions

Wash the straws the hays the night before, and leave them them to dry.

Season the chicken very well by lathering the bird generously with salt, pepper, half of oil and turmeric powder. Make sure you cover all nooks and crannies of the chicken. Turmeric adds this subtle medicinal note, that goes so well with the roasted hay.

Cut the top of the garlic bulb, so that the garlic cloves are just peaking through the skin. Stick the garlic bulb inside the bird’s cavity. Peel the ginger, pound it gently and stick it inside the bird as well. Leave the bird in the fridge for at least 30 minute to marinate. You can also do marinate the bird overnight.

Then, preheat the oven to 415 degrees.

Take out your Dutch oven or any roasting vehicle with a high wall. You want something that will snuggly hold the bird, without having too much free space. It is useless to give an exact amount of hays and straws required because what you want to do is to cover the bottom of your baking vehicle well. Then, carefully place the chicken on top of the nest created. Then, cover the bird generously with more hays and straws.

Roast for about 20 minutes for every pound. During the last 20 minutes, remove the straws and hays covering the bird. Drizzle the remaining oil on top. At this stage, you can also add in eggs if you wish to. These eggs will be cooked to hardboiled, and they will be infused with the most aromatic grassiness. They do make good snacks.

Serve the chicken immediately when hot. A good dollop of homemade mashed potato or steamed rice doused in soy sauce is perfect for this.



print recipe

Roasted chicken with hays and straws
This unorthodox recipe will give you the most succulent chicken every time.
Ingredients
  • 3-4 lbs. organic free range chicken
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 oz. ginger
  • 1 head garlic
  • 6 tbsps – divided half Vegetable oil
  • Variable Hays and straws
  • To taste Salt and pepper
Instructions
Wash the straws the hays the night before, and them to dry.Season the chicken very well by lathering the bird generously with salt, pepper, half of oil and turmeric powder. Make sure you cover all nooks and crannies of the chicken. Turmeric adds this subtle medicinal note, that goes so well with the roasted hay aroma.Cut the top of the garlic bulb, so that the garlic cloves are peaking through the skin. Stick the garlic bulb inside the bird’s cavity. Peel the ginger, pound it gently and stick it inside the bird as well. Leave the bird in the fridge for at least 30 minute to marinate. You can also do this overnight.Then, preheat the oven to 415 degrees.Take out your Dutch oven or any roasting vehicle with a high wall. You want is something that will snuggly hold the bird, without having too much free space. It is useless to give an exact amount of hays and straws because what you need is to cover the bottom of your baking vehicle well. Then, carefully place the chicken on top of the created nest. Then, cover the bird generously with more hays and straws.Roast for about 20 minutes for every pound. During the last 20 minutes, remove the straws and hays covering the bird. Drizzle the remaining oil on top. At this stage, you can also add in eggs if you wish to. These eggs will be cooked to hardboiled, and they will be infused with the most aromatic grassiness. They do make good snacks.Serve the chicken immediately when hot. A good dollop of homemade mashed potato is perfect for this.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-5 servings



8 comments:

  1. I could see Martha Stewart serving this in her barn. What a unique recipe!

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    1. Hahaha omg..and she can invite Snoop Dog :P

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  2. I'm thinking roasting duck in straws and hays now for Thanksgiving! Just thinking....most likely not going to happen because usually somebody else already cooking a big bird !! But maybe for other day !! Thanks for sharing. I can imagine the aroma! - Marvellina

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    1. Haha yes and I don’t think you want to scare people away with straws sticking to your bird.

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  3. Will definitely try this weekend in upstate ny.

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    1. Wish I can join. Send me a picture if you have a chance :D

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  4. Ah this is amazing Soe! So unique using hay (and how good is Chef's table?!!), and really enjoyed your stories of cooking in Myanmar - I can't imagine going from that to huge US supermarkets and New York. and "resting bitch faces and basement chicken coops" is SO TRUE.

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    1. Haha thanks for stopping by Claudia :D Yes, Chef's table is amazing.

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