Duke's Food Obsession
So, it occurred to me the other day that the two of you who actually read my column might want a recipe instead of my rambling on about food memories, or ingredients or the like. Imagine that. It also occurred to me (this was a big day) that you might, dear reader, appreciate a recipe that tackles the problem of eating on a budget. As the father of three children that my wife claims are mine, I commiserate with all of you who are trying to cook and feed your families on a budget.
In fact, I was going to write this month about the humble and amazing egg, mainly because it is a very cheap and delicious protein source, but then I was simultaneously writing about a chicken dish I make regularly at home for a post on my website (www.bbq-recipes-for-foodies.com) and I realized that this family favorite fit the bill for a delicious budget conscious recipe.
I too scour the weekly grocery fliers, and try to limit the cost of meat to $4 a pound, preferably less. The two protein sources that come in regularly in this range are, you guessed it, ground beef and chicken. But I am rarely satisfied with that $4 a pound number. In fact, the only time I buy chicken, is when I can get it for $.99 per pound or less. This applies to whole, bone-in chickens and unfortunately, no they are not free-range organics. My point here is that whether you want to trade up to organic or not, you will always find the cheapest price for a whole bird. The main reason is simple: little or no labor involved in cutting up the chicken.
The challenge then becomes how to gussy up chicken after the standard recipes get tired, and if you buy it whole, how to satisfy only white lovers or dark lovers. The recipe that follows is one of our family’s staples. It would make a great lunch, dinner, or Super Bowl party food. It is: Chicken Ciabatta.
The technique is simple: I like to brine a whole chicken overnight, roast it, and while it is still warm, remove the meat. Then I put all of the meat and crisp skin together and pile it on a loaf of ciabatta bread slathered in an herb mayonnaise (or if you want to impress- an aioli.) I then pour the juices on the meat and top it with the other half of bread. It is really, really good. The only minor difficulty is pulling the meat off of the bone while it’s hot. For this you will need to buy some latex gloves to insulate your hands, or buy some platex dish gloves that you keep separate from the ones used to clean the toilet.
So here we go:
½ cup salt
¼ cup sugar
2 qts. water
2 bay leaves
Mix until dissolved. Brine chicken overnight.
1 Loaf ciabatta ( I especially like the ones from Pine St. bakery even—the “day olds” work great for this.)
1 cup mayonnaise.
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tb. dried herbs (or fresh. The freeze dried herbs from Litehouse work great for this)
Salt and pepper
Mix to your liking. Thin with water as necessary
Roast the chicken whole, no need to truss or anything. Just plop it on a cookie sheet or roasting pan and cook at 425 for about an hour. Remove and let rest for 15 minutes, tented with foil. Reduce the oven to 325 and stick in the bread while the chicken is resting.
After 15 minutes, glove yourself, and pull all of the meat off of the bones saving the skin if you desire and don’t care about the added fat. Save the carcass for chicken stock! Split the ciabatta in half and generously slather it with the herb mayonnaise. Pile on the chicken, pour over any juices, and top with the other slathered piece of bread. Mangia mangia.
Feeds 6 at the cost of about $1.25 per person. To see step by step pictures, look here.