Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bread Meets Chicken

Twas the day before thanksgiving when all through the house...
not a creature was stirring, not even a chicken louse??!

Okay, doesn't quite work but you get the idea.

My first time hosting a dinner in Costa Rica for a friend and his mother and I wanted to make something with a "wow" factor. Plus being in the spirit of thanksgiving tidings, I wanted to do something comforting and homey. And so the perfect opportunity to try this intriguing recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, Chicken in Bread Crust. Over the months, I've been enjoying my own yeast experiments with bread making...so why not toss in a chicken while we're add it? I followed the recipe to the letter, but being a newbie, I wanted a foolproof way to knock it out of the park. Here are my tweaks to Mam'selle Clotilde's (love her) recette:

1. I'd read that when the baked chicken comes out of the bread, it looks rather like well...an ugly baby...(the chicken, never seeing the light of the inferno gets a hot blistering steam bath incased in dough instead). Would that be a pasty piece of thigh or breast meat dear? Trick: I seared the chicken in the oven for 10-15 min until the skin was brown (ooops, a tad scorched in my case), allowed it to completely cool (in the freezer - for those impatient like moi) before wrapping it in dough.

2. I was worried that the chicken wouldn't be flavorful enough. Even though I've been cooking since I was a wee lass, I still have salt paranoia. For me, I don't use a lot of salt (must be all that fish sauce growing up) so I'm either under salting things or being seriously heavy handed (usually, when I have a couple glasses of wine). Trick: I brined the chicken overnight with lots of bay leaves and garlic to make sure it was very moist and perfectly seasoned. Now did I  or did I not mention all that lovely chicken juices (ok, I can't help think that I just sounded a lot like John Cleese in the Meaning of Life, when he covers the vagina juices...yes, I just went there.)

3. For the bread crust, I didn't want to just cut it up and serve it along with the chicken. Oliver Twist comes to mind, "please sir, might I have some more...a bit more crust, cough cough." Ok, I exaggerate...who serves just crust?? Not I! Trick: I made my version of the legendary, Zuni Chicken Bread Salad. This bread salad is so close to my heart (living in San Francisco, I adore Zuni Cafe). My twist: I mixed the bread with roasted red peppers and eggplant in garlic (ok, I can't get enough of this stuff), basil and copious amounts of the chicken juices (there I go again). Yummers!

I brined the chicken and prepared the dough the day before so it takes a little more time and planning but it's well worth it...and the meal...oh, lordy so good and delightful. I can't wait to make it again. I hope you enjoy the recipe. Buen provecho amigos!

"scorched" chicken in bread aka poulet en croute de pain. green things = basil

 
 

look at that gorgeous crust...out of the oven and resting
half bread, half chicken...who am i???
ready for the knife...although i could have used a spoon
bread salad my way

Chicken in Bread Crust Recipe (serves 4)

For bread:
3 c flour
1 c water (add 1/4 c or more if needed, dough will be slightly wet)
1/2 cup spoolish or 2 tablespoons dried yeast (mix in ½ c warm water)
salt
oil (for coating)

For chicken:
1 chicken (2 kg ~ 4lbs)
1 batch brine

Brine
1/2 c salt
1/2 c sugar
10 c water
4 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic crushed
cracked pepper

Bread Salad
½ of the bread crust
2 red peppers
1 medium sized eggplant (chopped)
½ red onion (sliced)
1 large tomato
4 sprigs fresh basil
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt pepper
3 crushed cloves of garlic
½ c chicken juice
lemon juice (optional for brighness)

For the chicken brine (the day before)
Remove the wishbone and truss the chicken. (Believe it or not floss works, could not find twine here in the village). Brine chicken overnight in the fridge. Next day, discard the brine. Sear chicken in the oven. 260 C or 500 F. Remove and let chill in the fridge or zap it in the freezer for 20 mins.

For the bread (the day before)
In a bowl, combine flour, salt, yeast and water. Mix and place in an oiled bowl with a towel and let dough rest for 1 hour. Punch down dough after and hour and allow it to rest and grow over night (ok to place in fridge - remove from fridge 3 hrs before using). 2 hour before using the dough, I stretch and knead it. (Good bread stretching technique, jump to 1:30) Then let it rest.

Assembling & baking
30 mins before baking, flour the surface and your hands, roll out the dough. Remove any access flour. Lay chicken in the center of the dough and wrap. Fold the sides, then top and bottom. Seal the dough with water, place in a roasting pan or a 24 ‘ inch cake pan. In a 360 F oven, bake for 1 ½ hrs depending on the size of the bird. If the bread gets too dark, you can cover with foil.

After 1 ½ hrs, remove the chicken and let it rest for 30 mins before carving. (How to carve video).

For the Bread Salad (Prepare the vegetables ahead of time)
Line a pan with foil. Roast the peppers in the oven for 20 mins at 180 C or 356 F. The skin will be brown, remove and let the peppers rest to room temperature. When cool, peel off the skin. Remove the seeds and chop. Set aside.

For the eggplant, cut into cubes and salt liberally. Let it sit for 30 minutes until water comes from the eggplant. On medium heat, add oil and crushed garlic to a frying pan. Add the eggplant and sautee for 15 minutes or until brown. Set aside.

In a salad bowl, make the vinaigrette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the chicken juices from the pan or deglaze with water if there isn't enough juices (will be pretty salty). Add the sliced onions. With half the crust, cut into cubes. Add to the bowl. Add the peppers, eggplants with garlic, sliced basil and tomato. Toss and season to taste. Add more juice or water. The bread should be moist but still have texture. If you need some brightness, squeeze some half a lemon.

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