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It all started with this buther's shop on Mission. They had all kinds of Asian-friendly trappings: swimming crabs in tanks; slabs of salmon on ice; bright, healthy cuts of beef brisket; a wall of freezers with actual frozen fresh grated coconut - and a great big pile of lean chickens, skin on, never frozen, with fat that looked a fine yellow and cornfed. The people who worked there spoke Cantonese when I wandered in. By my estimation, a busy butcher's shop/fish monger with Cantonese-speaking staff has a higher chance of doing wonderful things, like chop crabs into easy-to-ravage parts, and sell proper stewing cow meat for five spice beef brisket. The nice Uncle behind the counter gave me a large whole chicken and 2 pounds of skinless chicken breasts (denture pink!) for $11.

One of the first things I probably learnt to cook, after scrambled eggs and tomato and cheese sandwiches, was roast chicken. Thanks to a mother who firmly believed whole chickens were better and fresher than those things that come out of plastic boxes, I wound up with a lot of roast chicken dinners and chicken soup lunches in college. A whole roast chicken lasts a single college student staying alone a long time, especially if you're smart about rationing how you re-cook the leftovers. I learnt to make mashed potatoes fairly quickly after that, because mashed potatoes and gravy are terribly comforting.

The recipe I use for making roast chicken is something I borrowed wholesale from my mother. I made it for dinner last night. Based on rough calculations of the correct oven temperature in Fahrenheit, based on the same mathematics that failed me for three terms straight in college (I wound up with a degree in computers), I ended up re-roasting the blasted thing 3 times. The chicken turned out great, barring a charred wing tip. The (massively) roasted bird was the juiciest chicken I'd ever had in my life. I swear, after roasting it the third time, I was ready to find a dried husk in the oven - instead, the chicken was not only still totally moist and tender with a bit of bite, it was semi-submerged in juice that overflowed past the onions I'd used to prop the whole thing. In fact, when I cut into the perfectly paper-thin skin, there were pockets of juice between the seams of meat.

There was a lot of meat. We will be having roast chicken-derived dishes for the next 3 days.

I served it with its own juice as a gravy, over mashed potatoes with sour cream and parsley. When I reheated the leftovers for lunch today, I liked it so much, I was compelled to write a post to share it with you. (Not the carcass - it's a mess. Will words do?)

Afi's Mother's Roast Chicken

She'll probably say it's not hers.


1 whole chicken, skin on (beheaded with fat trimmed)
2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
juice and zest of 1 lime
a sprinkle of parsley (finely chopped)

For the gravy:

6 cloves garlic (whole)
2 onions (halved)
1 cup water

1. Wash and pat dry the chicken.
2. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade.
3. Marinade chicken in your roasting dish for 3 hours and up. The longer you marinade it, the better. Make sure the salt is rubbed into all the seams of the chicken.
4. Pre-heat oven to 375F.
5. Prop the chicken onto the onions in your roasting dish. I suggest two halves under both ends of the bird.
6. Throw in the whole garlic cloves.
7. Add the water.
8. Roast chicken for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours, or until the juice runs clear.
9. You may baste the chicken in its own spa water during cooking.
10. Serve chicken with its drippings as a gravy.

Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Parsley

You can peel the potatoes if you prefer that. But you do know that half the nutrients in a potato is in its skin, right?

4 large potatoes (skin on - I used reds)
Enough water to cover potatoes in a pot
3 tbsp sour cream
1 large handful parsley (finely chopped)
6 cloves roasted garlic (from the chicken above)
Milk (for thinning mash to the desired consistency)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil potatoes till you can run a fork through each spud.
2. Dredge out cooked potatoes. Reserve the boiling liquid for stock. (I'm frugal. Bite me.)
3. Mash potatoes in a large bowl. If you're finding it hard to work through the potatoes, try quartering them first and adding a bit of milk.
4. Mash the roasted garlic cloves into the potatoes.
5. Stir in sour cream, parsley and seasoning.
6. Serve with gravy.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 28th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
1. hi, hi, hi, hi. (this is to make up for the times i haven't been commenting at you. i was quiet for a while.)

2. the first thing i ever learned to cook was scrambled eggs. (i would cook and eat four at a time. i was four years old. i had a big appetite.)

3. we live in the same city now. i even work in your neighborhood. we should have tea some time, really. i can't recall whether i've ever known if you drink beer or not.
Oct. 13th, 2008 06:02 pm (UTC)
1. Hullo!

2. Two eggs always seemed like a huge luxury to me at breakfast. Four would fill me to the gills!

3. It is true that I'm not one for beer and its colourful and whacky relations. But I am greatly interested in tea, and tea with you sometime, really. I've been wondering about good places for tea and cake in this neighbourhood since I moved here. Recommendations are most welcome!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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