When I read about the FoodBlogSouth2013 Telephone Game, I raised my hand as fast as I could. Who wouldn’t want to cook along with a slew of like-minded, blogging, experimenting fellow food writers, connect to FoodBlogSouth, and learn from the Grand Dame, Fairy Godmother, and Resident Generous Genius of Southern Cuisine, Nathalie Dupree? “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Stevens Grabart had just published to great acclaim and I had gotten my copy and had Nathalie sign it just days before this opportunity arose.
But when I got down to brass tacks, as my mother used to say without explaining what that meant or what other kinds of tacks she was using before she got down to them, I had a moment. A moment of fear and doubt. Roasting? Roasting a whole entire chicken? In the oven? I have been cooking for well over 40 years (yes, I started young), and am at home with mortar and pestle, wok, cleaver, dough scraper, and cast iron skillet. I’m all over baking and the oven is my friend. But what I know how to do with meat is cut it down to size. Whole chicken? I can turn that thang into breasts, legs, thighs, back, and wings in a New York minute, ready for frying in my castir iron skillet. I know from pork butt and country-style ribs: how to chop it up and then rapid-fire grind it with my cleaver into hand-crafted ground pork popping with flavor, or thinly sliced or primly-chunked pieces, ideal for stir-fry or curry. Rib-eye, tri-tip, flank steak — it’s all a cakewalk when I’m cooking Asian dishes, or Southern-fried ones, or stewing an old hen into chicken and dumplings, or wings into party-perfect finger food. But a whole roasted anything? Give me strength!
So I took a deep breath and reached across the oceans, using my imaginary telephone. As we Baby Boomers used to do back in the day of telephones tethered to walls and costly surcharges based on who was calling from where, I called “long distance”. I ‘telephoned’ my Asian culinary knowledge base, for an idea of how to handle a big hunk of meat in that big hot oven-box. I got an answer pretty quick; it was lively and the connection was crackling-clear.
“Gai yahng! Gai yahng!” I could hear the Thai grilled chicken vendors calling up to passengers through the open windows of an upcountry bus or train. Grilled Thai garlic chicken, splayed out on to bamboo slats and grilled over coals, served with sticky rice, green papaya salad chili spiked and cool-hot; and chili-garlic sauce, the sweet and tangy syrup/sauce that pairs perfectly with gai yahng. The marinade for grilled chicken ought to work on a whole roast chicken, I answered myself, “since I’ve got guidelines on translating to roasting from my predecessor, “Life In Recipes”.
I hung up the imaginary helper-phone, on my toll-free long-distance call, ready to cook. Life in Recipes had cooked brussels sprouts with ginger and green onions in the cast iron skillet along with her gloriously pictured bird. I opted for sweet potatoes, because they are found in Thailand, they cook up like the kabocha pumpkins and other hard squashes and root vegetables Thai people love, I adore them, and I had some on hand. I cooked the dipping sauce while the bird was roasting, and planned on lovely simple jasmine rice to serve along with everything, since sticky rice is another story for another day. Here’s how it went:
My Telephone Game was a ‘win’ all around. I roasted a most tasty chicken, taking things in a Thai/Asian direction that worked handsomely and deliciously. I found “Life In Recipes” and a whole slew of other bloggers to follow, including my dear friend Sheri Castle who started the Telephone Game for us and for FoodBlogSouth 2013 way back in November. My family got a spectacular weeknight dinner that was so simple, and unintimidating, that they will be enjoying it in regular rotation from now on. It was a feast and I’m glad to be on this party line. (Young bloggers, ask your parents/grandparents about that one — it may be too low-tech and antique for Google).
Below you’ll find my two recipes, for the chicken and the fabulous sauce — good on almost anything, I would have to say. To see where I’m coming from, you can trace our calls! We started this FoodBlogSouth 2013 Telephone Game with my friend Sheri Castle here at Sheri Castle. Then came Anne-Marie Nichols at thismamacooks.com, and Niki at lifeinrecipes.com. Now me, here at nanciemcdermott.wordpress.com. And next week, December 19th: Michal Thornton at thehumidity.blogspot.com. We’ll keep on going, so check Michal Thornton for the next number to call. We’re cooking here on the FoodBlogSouth 2013 party line, with our recipe-driven Telephone Game.
- 1/4 cup chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 whole chicken (a small one; about 3 1/2 pounds)
- About 3 cups peeled sweet potatoes, cut into big bite-sized chunks
- In a blender or a small food-processor, combine the garlic, cilantro stems, vegetable oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, pepper, salt, and water.
- Grind to a well-combined, fairly smooth paste, pulsing on and off and scraping down the sides between grinding spells to get everything to the same stage. (You could also mince the garlic and cilantro stems very finely using your knife, and then mashin the salt and pepper with the back of a fork to incorporate it. Scrape this into a bowl, add the fish sauce and oil, stir well, and continue.)
- Transfer the paste to a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn it all around, rubbing with the paste to season the chicken completely and as evenly as possible. Cover and set aside for 1 hour or up to 1 day.
To roast the chicken:
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place it breast side up in a roasting pan large enough to contain the bird. Place the sweet potatoes all around the chicken.
- Place the chicken in the oven and reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Let the chicken roast for about 45 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp, and the meat is done to 165 degrees measured at the thigh where the heat is thick.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Leave the sweet potatoes in the roasting pan, covered, on the back of the stove to stay warm.
- To serve, transfer the sweet potatoes to the serving platter and distribute them around the chicken, scraping any liquid onto the platter to flavor the chicken and the sweet potatoes.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce (recipe follows) and jasmine rice, or couscous, pasta, or bread.
Serves 3 to 4 people
I've adapted this recipe from my book: Quick and Easy Thai: 70 Everyday Recipes by Nancie McDermott. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vinegar (white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce (sambal oelek), or Sri Rachaa Sauce, or 2 teaspoons dried red chili flakes
- In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, vinegar, water, garlic and salt to a lively boil over medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar.
- Adjust heat to maintain an active simmer and cook, stirring now and then, for 9 to 12 minutes, until you have a thin, smooth syrup, about the texture of maple syrup. (This is tricky --- it needs to be definitely thickened but not as thick as honey or pancake syrup. If you're not sure, crank it up a little and go another five minutes with lots of bubbling. It will thicken on standing; but it does need to be thickened up to thin but specific syrup before you stop. )
- Remove from heat, stir in the chili sauce, and set aside to cool. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with grilled, roasted, or fried foods.
- Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
This recipe comes from Quick and Easy Thai: 70 Everyday Recipes by Nancie McDermott. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.