Friday, December 30, 2011

delicious. Magazine's Bengali-Spiced Squash with Ginger Roasted Chicken (22/24)

Early into this project, I spent a good few hours looking up roast chicken recipes with search terms like, "Chinese roast chicken," "Thai roast chicken," "unique roast chicken," and "Latin roast chicken." Basically, roast chicken recipes that weren't necessarily the product of famous chefs that had a non-European flavor profile. Chicken number twenty-two was the result of searching, "Indian roast chicken." I know, "Bengali" isn't entirely Indian, and is more Bangladeshi than anything, but the recipe looked solid and delicious. The inclusion of a squash made me reserve this one for autumn or winter, when squashes are in season.

The recipe starts with some fresh grated ginger. Most people use a regular spoon to skin fresh ginger, but I find grapefruit spoons to be more effective and efficient.

The tablespoon of ginger goes straight into the cavity of the chicken. If your chicken looks something like an alien life form's mouth spewing acid, you're probably on the right track.

After seasoning the chicken with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, tie the legs together and place the chicken onto the roasting pan. Send the chicken off into a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, work on spicing up the kabocha squash. The recipe calls for whole green cardamom pods, which I'd never seen before, so I thought I'd share a little picture of them. Instantly, you can smell the difference between the potencies of pre-ground cardamom and freshly ground cardamom.

The cardamom gets thrown into a spicy party of paprika, coriander, cumin, and chili powder. The resulting aroma is insanely addictive as the spices come together.

After 20 minutes in the oven, the chicken should be nicely browned. Take out the chicken and let it sit as you start to prepare the squash.

In a pan, combine the sunflower oil, onion wedges, jalapeño, garlic, and ginger into a pan, and then add the kabocha squash and spices to meld all the flavors together. The recipe asks you to peel the skin off of the kabocha squash, but I just love the skin too much to let it go to waste.

As the kabocha is cooking, squeeze out some lemon juice, return the chicken to a 395 degree oven, and baste the chicken every 5 minutes for 20 minutes.

Once the acorn squash has been lightly cooked and thoroughly combined with the other spices and ingredients, surround the chicken with the onions and squash and return the pan to the oven.

After about 40 more minutes in the oven, the squash should look a little blistered and the chicken should look crisp and browned. Right when you open up the oven door, a hurricane of lemon, chicken, and cardamom hits you in the nose and follows up with a jab of that distinctively autumnal smell of roasted squash. And I don't mean to brag or anything, but I think my chicken looked even better than the one pictured in the recipe. No big deal.

The kabocha squash was absurdly delicious. The nutty sweetness and richness of the squash performs an amazing balancing act with the spectrum of spices, garlic, and jalapeño in your mouth. The softened onion wedges pick up a ton of the stray lemon juices. And both the squash and the onions pick up the meaty pan drippings. If the Bengali region was anywhere close to Mumbai, I would describe the flavor bomb in my mouth as a 24-hour Bollywood dance party. I nearly forgot that there was a chicken to eat, but I'm glad I didn't.

The chicken was an absolute success. My dad said this was the best roast chicken he's ever had. Piercing into the dark meat released even more flavor into the pan for the squash and onions to pick up, and every piece of dark and white meat featured serious juice and beautifully crispy skin. Dipping the meat into the pan drippings was a treat. The lemon juices that gathered in the pan added a necessary acidic element to the heavy combination of chicken and squash. Eating the chicken together with the squash and onion was perfection. I don't think any other chicken recipe over the course of this project has suggested a side as successful as this.

My only complaint with this chicken is that the flavor of ginger didn't find its way into the chicken at all. The ginger in the preparation of the squash wasn't enough to satisfy my love for ginger either. I guess next time I prepare this chicken, which I most definitely will, I'll have to add some more ginger to both the squash and the chicken cavity. Definitely try this recipe before squash season ends.

Two more posts to close out this project, and the year, tomorrow.

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