Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In which I'm Overcome by Self-Indulgence

When I was little, I used to sneak into the kitchen on holidays and eat all the gravy before dinner. Spoonful after spoonful. I couldn’t get enough.

It was usually turkey gravy, having been created by a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey roasting in the oven for hours, with whatever bazaar stuffing was ‘in’ that year permeating the deep brown juices.

Gravy is kind of the distilled essence of all the flavors involved in the roasted portion of the meal. Usually defatted, sometimes thickened, but always rich and lush in flavor. Usually much more flavorful than the dried out birds that eventually made it to the tables of my youth.

We only had gravy on these few holidays a year, I don’t ever remember anyone making gravy on a normal, non-holiday day.

But I make a gravy, or pan sauce, or something similar, at every opportunity. It seems to me to be almost the goal. A finely flavored gravy is indicative of everything else being fine as well. A good combination of flavors, well roasted but not burned, skillfully deglazed, defatted, reduced and seasoned.

So I was pretty happy with the gravy tonight. Flavors of apple, sage, roasted beet, roasted parsnips, and of course the chicken. All mingled together. Plus a touch of roasted garlic and thyme from the mashed potatoes.

The sauce tinged red from the beets, but deep in color from the two plus hours of roasting. Not bold and sharp, but luxuriously rich, sensuously smooth, deeply flavorful in a kind of voluptuous way. Seductive. I was weak.

Everyone else got just a taste of the gravy. I pretty much ate it all before dinner was even served. In the kitchen. The benefits of being the chef. I self-indulged, but no one caught me!

Apple and Sage Roasted Chicken with Roasted Beets and Parsnips on Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes with (of course!) Pan Gravy

A 5 to 6 pound roasting chicken, cleaned
1 apple, cored and cut into eighths
several sprigs of fresh sage, leaves removed from stem, but left whole
several sprigs of fresh parsley
6 small beets
8 parsips
20 sage leaves, cut in a chiffinade
olive oil
salt, pepper
Roasted Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Stuff chicken cavity with alternating layers of apple, sage sprigs and parsley sprigs. Rub outside of chicken with a little olive oil. Place on roasting pan.

Wash beets and toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add to roasting pan. If making the roasted garlic mashed potatoes, put the prepared garlic in the roasting pan at this time as well.

Place pan in oven an roast for about 2 hours.

Wash parsnips, cut into thirds or quarters, toss in olive oil, sage chiffinade, salt and pepper. Add to roasting pan with one hour left to roast.

After about 2 hours, verify chicken is roasted through (thermometer, check juices). Remove roasting pan from oven. Remove chicken to a carving board, and tent with tin foil and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove parsnips to a bowl, tent with tin foil, and keep warm. Remove beet to a plate, and let cool. Pour pan drippings to a heatproof glass cup or a degreasing cup.

When cool enough to touch, peel beets, and slice then in thick slices. Carve chicken. Pour off grease from pan drippings (or, using a bulb siphon, siphon away the juice on the bottom of the glass to another bowl).

Arrange mashed potatoes on serving plates. Arrange parsnips and beets. Arrange chicken slices on top of potatoes. Spoon gravy over and serve. Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic and Fresh Herbs Mashed Potatoes

1 bulb garlic
olive oil
10 to 12 potatoes, starchy variety like russet
1 to 2 cups of chicken broth
several sprigs of parsley, minced
several sprigs of fresh thyme, minced

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the garlic to expose the tops of the cloves. Place garlic bulb on a pieces of tin foil, and bring the tin foil up to encase the bulb, leaving the top open. Slowly pour olive oil over the top of the garlic – as much as will soak in. Close the tin foil tightly. Place on a roasting pan in oven, and roast for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Remove from oven, open tin foil and let cool.

While garlic is roasting, peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a large pot of salted cold water. Bring water to a boil, and cook potatoes until tender. Drain potatoes and let cool, uncovered.

15 minutes before serving, squeeze roasted garlic from its peel onto a plate. Mash potatoes with enough chicken broth to achieve desired consistency. Place over medium heat, continuing to mash and stir. Add the roasted garlic, and mash into the potatoes until well incorporated, and potatoes are heated though. Stir in the parsley and thyme. Serve. Enjoy!

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Blogger MM said...

I was expecting lyrical waxings about truffles and what nots when I read the first line. But you are so right ... a good gravy is the best indulgence.

1:49 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Stephanie, no, no- I haven't worked my way up to truffles - yet! But I look forward to self-indulging in those someday as well!

7:42 PM  
Blogger MM said...

Take your time! I know I will be crucified by all the foodies but I find a lot of places and people overdo the truffle thing. Want it to be gourmet? Just throw some truffle oil or shavings on it. *Roll eyes*

I much rather have good quality food which is balanced in taste, aroma, visual appeal and common sense. Like yours.

4:32 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Stephanie - you're much too kind with your comments, but thanks! And I agree with you - good food is much more than an expensive ingredient thrown on top!

11:56 PM  

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