Category Archives: gadgets

Roasted Brine-soaked Chicken

Chicken on Vertical Roaster

Brining is essential for a juicy, flavorful roast chicken. Brining is simple to do, and with a vertical chicken roaster and digital cooking thermometer with probe, roasting requires little work and is fairly foolproof. The result is so tasty, unless you don’t have time to do the brining or roasting, there’s no reason to ever buy a supermarket-roasted chicken again.

Ingredients:

1 4 to 5 pound whole chicken, thoroughly washed
1/4 c kosher salt
1/4 c sugar
2 T black peppercorns, freshly cracked
2 T minced or crushed garlic

Dissolve the kosher salt and sugar in about 2 cups of boiling water. After thoroughly dissolved, add about 1 quart ice cubes with water to cool the hot brine. Stir in the crushed peppercorns and garlic.

Stand the chicken, vent side up, in a 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag, in a tall stockpot. (I use an 8 qt. Calphalon stockpot; it makes the bagged chicken easier to handle, catches any overflow or leaked brine, and fits nicely in my refrigerator.) Pour the brine into the bag, aiming at the vent to concentrate the pepper and garlic inside the chicken. (If you wish, add the neck piece and gizzards; don’t brine the liver or heart – clean, lightly flour and gently pan fry these separately as a snack.) Zip the bag closed, squeezing out all the air, adding cold water, as needed, so the bag is completely filled with brine when zipped closed. (This will ensure all parts of the chicken are brined. Having put the bag in the pot, any overflow will be caught by the pot, preventing a mess.) Soak the chicken from 4 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove the chicken from the brine. Strain the brine through a fine sieve to preserve the pepper and garlic and put it into the cavity; discard the brine. Stand the chicken on a vertical chicken roaster on a small pan to catch the juices. Insert the neck piece and gizzards under a flap of the neck skin. (If you’d like a crisper skin on the roast chicken, pour boiling water over the chicken skin to firm it up and let the chicken air dry for about an hour before roasting.) Roast the chicken in a 350° oven until the thigh meat (away from the bone) reaches 175-180°. Remove from oven and let the roasted chicken rest at least 20 minutes before slicing. Reserve and de-fat the pan juices for making a sauce. Because of the brining, even the white meat will still be moist and it will all be very flavorful.

VARIATIONS. Add herbs, spices, soy sauce, or Japanese mirin to the brine. Use brown sugar, honey or molasses in place of the sugar (some sweetness tends to offset a saltiness the brine might otherwise impart). Use apple juice, cider, orange juice, beer, wine, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, stock, tea, or other liquids to replace some or all of the water.

The same method can be used for roast turkey (soak 1-2 days; use a jumbo 2 to 3 gallon freezer bag and vertical turkey roaster), roast pork loin, or pork chops. Also check out http://whatscookingamerica.net/Poultry/BriningPoultry.htm

Homemade Soy Milk

I was elated that a new local Chinese restaurant had freshly made Chinese crullers – “fried devils” (You Zha Gui or You Tiao) and salty soy milk soup (Xian Dou Jiang). The You Tiao were wonderful, but the Xian Dou Jiang was curdled; it tasted fine, but I like it in a creamy/custardy style. I looked up recipes for Xian Dou Jiang online and tried making it with supermarket plain soy milk, but was dismayed with the flavor. The recipes warned of the need to use unflavored soy milk, but even the boxed soy milks I tried labeled “plain” has been sweetened, completely ruining the taste of the Dou Jiang.

So I looked up how to make soy milk. I found various recipes (for example, the one from Chowhound) and many recommendations for a $100 machine to make it. Not wanting to wait or spend the money until I could find if I could make Dou Jiang as I remembered it, I experimented with a few of the recipes and have come down to this one that works for me.

Dried Soy Beans

Dried Soy Beans

First the soybeans. I went to my local Asian supermarkets and looked for dried soybeans in the dried beans section. No luck. I found they’re so popular that they’re kept with the fresh produce. A manageable sized bag of about 3 pounds of beans sold for under $3. Note that dried soybeans are round; they don’t look like edamame.

I also needed a way to squeeze the milk from the blended soybeans. I didn’t think that regular cheesecloth would be fine or strong enough to stand up to the pressure of being squeezed hard, so I tried “Ultra Fine Cheesecloth” that I found at Sur La Table.

Here’s the recipe I ended up with. It produces about 10 cups (1/2 gallon and 1 pint) of soy milk, which works out to about 80₵ per half gallon.

2 c dried soybeans (about 13 oz)
1 slice ginger

Dried and soaked soybeans

Dried and soaked soybeans

Soak 2 cups dried soybeans overnight – at least 12 hours. Drain, rinse, and pick over the beans to remove any pebbles or other debris (I’ve never found any, but you wouldn’t want to put rocks into your blender!) The beans will have swelled to about 5 cups and regained their bean shape.

Blend the beans in batches: 1 cup of beans with 2 cups of fresh cold water. I run my blender on Chop for 30 seconds and then Puree for about 1 minute, to make a smooth paste. It comes out with a layer of foam.

DSC02624Pour the pureed beans into a strainer lined with 4 thicknesses of the cheesecloth, set over a pot to catch the milk. Let it drain while preparing the next batch in the blender.

DSC02633

Take up the corners of the cheesecloth and twist, squeezing out at much of the remaining milk from the beans as you can. Dump the dregs into a bowl; reserve for use in other cooking (it’s a good protein source – I stir fry mine with leftover rice and vegetables to make fried rice). Repeat with the remaining beans, producing about 10 cups of raw soy milk.

DSC02641Put the soy milk and ginger slice into a large pot and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring periodically, scraping the bottom of the pot with a flat nylon turner and watching it to ensure it doesn’t boil over. As it starts to steam, watch very closely since it will quickly foam up and boil over! As the foam rises, quickly remove the pot from the hot burner and stir, letting the soy milk cool in the pot. Strain the milk to remove the ginger and store in containers.

Refrigerate and use as soy milk, for Dou Jiang or Dou Fu Fa. It should keep for about 3 days. Freeze the soy dregs in a freezer bag for later use.

There will be a skin stuck firmly on the bottom and sides of the pot – scrape off as much as you can with a nylon turner. Soak and wash the pot with a nylon scrub pad to remove the remaining soy coating.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie


It’s National Pumpkin Pie Day, so to celebrate, I made my first fresh pumpkin pie! Thanks to the information at PickYourOwn.org, I learned the difference between pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins and found one of the former at my local Whole Foods. Since they were selling for $2.50 each, I picked the biggest one they had, weighing in at 4.15 pounds, which worked out to 60¢/pound – significantly cheaper than usually recommended alternative butternut or acorn squashes in the supermarket.

As directed in the detailed, illustrated, step-by-step instructions by PickYourOwn, I cut the pumpkin in half (using a heavy Chinese cleaver), cut off the stem, and scooped out the seeds and stringy insides. I steamed each half on a steamer basket, covered, in my tall stockpot (on high heat for 15 minutes, then lower heat for another 10 minutes). The skin came right off in one piece.

Rather than roll out whole graham crackers, I bought a box of graham cracker crumbs and made a graham cracker pie crust with the crumbs, adding sugar and butter as per the box’s instructions (mixing the ingredients in my food processor). I spread the fairly loose mixture into a pie pan and pressed it into the pan using a matching pie pan on top, then baked the empty crust for 8 minutes as instructed to make it golden brown.

I cut the pumpkin flesh into big chunks and used my stick blender to puree it. I ended up with almost 6 cups of pumpkin puree. It was quite thick – not at all watery.

Trying for the freshest flavors, I hand-ground whole cloves, allspice berries, and fresh ginger using a mortar and pestle and mixed together the PickYourOwn recipe’s ingredients. I ladled the pie mixture into the pie shell, to within 1/4″ of the top and loosely covered the edge of the crust with strips of aluminum foil, crimped over the edge of the pie pan. I baked it as instructed using my convection oven at 425° for 15 minutes, then 350° for another 45 minutes.

The doneness testing knife came out clean, so I removed the pie from the oven and let it cool while I ate dinner.

Not wanting to scratch my new pie pan, I cut the pie with a plastic spatula. When I licked the spatula clean, though I was horrified! It didn’t taste quite right. I realized that in my multi-processing effort to cook an eggplant parmigiana for dinner while preparing the pie, I had neglected to add the honey to the pie filling!

Resigned to discard my failure and cook another pie tomorrow, I finished eating my eggplant then tried the slice of pie I had previously cut. To my surprise, it tasted quite good. It wasn’t the classically sweet pumpkin pie I was used to, but I thought that my Mom would actually prefer it to the normal sweet version, since she doesn’t care for sweet desserts. The crust was yummy; the pie mixture had soaked into the crumbly crust, giving it a nicely toothy texture.

So I’ll wait a couple of days before using the excess pumpkin mixture and some of the remaining puree to make another pie – this time, hopefully, remembering to add honey to see how sweet it turns out. Meanwhile, I can guiltlessly devour the rest of my under-sweet pie knowing I’m benefiting from the anti-oxidant virtues of the superfood pumpkin, with less sugar! I’ll freeze the leftover pumpkin puree – and go buy another pie pumpkin, cook, puree, and freeze it, since it’s been very hard to locate canned pumpkin.

Here’s PickYourOwn’s ingredients, cut down by about 1/3 to reduce the amount of excess pie filling for a 9″ pie:

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2/3 cup sugar – or 2/3 cup Splenda, or 1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (another superfood!)
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs
2 cups cooked pumpkin puree
1 can (12oz) of evaporated milk (I used the nonfat version)