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February 3, 2004

Small-Time Cooks

The wind cut through me like a well-sharpened Wusthof as I trudged down the street. I was in the mood for something hot, and I wasn't going to get it from the flask in my pocket. I wasn't seeing Maria this week; she had flown south to escape the cold. I decided to make roast chicken with a sweet glaze and some garlic mashed potatoes. It was the warmest thing I could imagine, next to a bottle of hot sauce.

These dishes serve 4.

Pineapple Molasses Glazed Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken, cleaned and halved

2 tablespoons molasses

1 small can crushed pineapple

2 cups vegetable broth

dash of oregano

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken halves skin up in the roasting pan on a rack so that the drippings collect on the bottom of the pan. If you like roasted vegetables, place some along the bottom of the pan (especially good are potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks; peeled carrots; skinned red and white onion halves; and garlic). Set pan in oven to roast. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add the molasses. Drain as much juice as you can from the crushed pineapple into the broth and let simmer. Add in the oregano. Meanwhile, remove the drained crushed pineapple and chop into small pieces on a cutting board, or puree. This will give the glaze a smoother flavor and make it easier to baste on the chicken. Add the pineapple to the broth and continue to simmer. Let the glaze reduce and thicken; it should hold slightly to your spoon when it is thick enough. If the chicken has been roasting for about 40 minutes and the glaze is not thick enough, mix in a tablespoon of cornstarch with water and add the mixture to to the broth and boil until it thickens. After the chicken has been roasting for 45 minutes, baste the glaze onto the chicken skin with a spoon, and turn up the heat to 400. Baste after another 15 minutes and turn up the heat to 500 for 5 more minutes to make the skin crispy. Remove from oven and let cool, making sure the chicken is done all the way to the bone before serving.

For vegetarians and vegans: using tofu instead of chicken is an option. Marinate the tofu in the glaze and pan fry after patting the outside dry. A fine dish indeed, especially if you serve it over rice or vegetables.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

3-4 pounds white potatoes, peeled

4-8 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1 cup warm milk

4 Tablespoons butter

pepper

salt

Cut the potatoes into chunks and boil with the peeled cloves of garlic until the potatoes are tender all the way through. Carefully drain off the water, leaving the potatoes and garlic cloves. With a masher or large spoon, mash the potatoes and garlic, mixing well. Stir in the warm milk and butter, adding more or less to make the potatoes of desired consistency and taste. Add in pepper and salt to taste and serve hot.

Make mashed potatoes vegan by replacing butter with margarine and milk with soymilk, or incorporating a light wine sauce into the potatoes in place of the milk altogether. I recommend a white wine sauce with shallots and mushrooms, serving the mushrooms over the top of the potatoes.