Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Glazed maple syrup chicken with chestnut-pear filling

I have to admit, I never really cooked a whole bird before. Breast, yes. Legs, yes. But a whole bird? Never. I know it's not that difficult on the one hand. But on the other things can go wrong easily, as well. My biggest fear is dry meat.

I found this recipe on the website of German Brigitte magazine and altered it a little bit. I didn't want to go with something as elaborate as goose, duck or turkey right away. But this chicken with chestnut stuffing sounded perfect. Just a chicken, but with some fancy and wintery extras and ingredients. Wohoo!

Unfortunately it turned out a little too dry in the end. I decided to cook the chicken in a terracotta cassserole (Römertopf) instead of steaming it beforehand, as the original recipe suggested. The terracotta gets soaked in water for at least ten minutes before and keeps whatever meat is inside nice and moist. Unfortunately the chicken looked quite pale, even though the meat was already cooked. So after removing the lid I had to cook it for another 30-45 minutes in order to fry/broil the skin.
That caused some dryness in the breast sections. But hey! My first bird! Next time I will just take the lid  off earlier, so that this won't happen again. And besides that, it was delicious!

Here's what you need:

1 red onion, chopped
400g/14 oz. chestnuts (pre-cooked, peeled and vacuum-sealed)
80g/2.8 oz. butter or margarine
1 pear, core removed, cut into cubes
2 celery stalks, chopped
5 twigs of fresh majoran (I only had dried one)
(A few fresh twigs of rosemary and thyme)
3 tbsp maple syrup
salt, freshly ground pepper
1 chicken (organic, approx. 1.5kilos/3.3 pounds)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
200 ml / ¾cups white wine/cidre (or apple juice)
400ml / 1¾ cups chicken broth (in a glass)
150g / ⅔ cups creme fraiche


Halve 250g (a bit more than half of the total amount) of the chestnuts.
Mix with onion cubes and sauté both with 20g /0.7oz. butter until onions are translucent.

Mix in chopped celery and pear cubes. Remove the leaves from 3 majoran twigs and add them to the mixture, as well. Stir in 1tbsp maple syrup and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Rinse the chicken under cold water, cleaning the in- and outside and dry it with paper towel.
Rub it with salt (in- and outside, as well).
Fill the chicken with as much chestnut-pear mixture as possible and close it up with tooth picks or small iron spits.

Carefully place some herbs (twigs of rosemary, thyme, majoran) directly underneath the skin. Just try to separate the skin from the meat and push the herbs between. That adds some extra nice flavour!

Preheat the oven to a maximum of 180°C (the lower the longer it needs to cook, but the better and more tender the meat gets.

In the meantime soak a terracotta casserole for at least ten minutes in warm water.
Brush the bottom of the cassserole with a bit of oil. Place the chicken in the casserole, close the lid and cook the chicken for about 30-45minutes. In the meantime melt 40g/1.4oz butter. Remove the lid and cook for another 30-45 minutes at 180°C. To give it a proper tan while keeping it moist and adding some flavour brush the chicken top with melted butter and maple syrup, one at a time, every 10-15minutes. If the skin gets too dark before the meat is fully cooked, just cover it up with some aluminium foil. You know that the chicken is done when the meat comes off the leg bones. This is a pretty good indicator for all kinds of poultry. Once you notice it cook it maybe 10-15 minutes longer, just to make sure. But it should be about perfect!

While the chicken is in the oven puree the rest of the chestnuts (you might wanna add some of the chicken broth to make it easier to puree). Sauté garlic with the leftover butter in a saucepan. 

Add chicken broth and white wine, bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes, do not cover.
Stir in creme fraiche then the pureed chestnuts. Season to taste with salt, pepper and maybe some of the maple syrup and serve the sauce with the chicken.


PS: If you have a tip on how to get chicken unresitibly moist, let me know. One info ahead: the minimum temperature of our gas oven is 150°C. That's as low as it gets...

The original recipe didn't use rosemary and thyme just majoran and didn't glaze the chicken with maple syrup, just melted butter. They also added honey instead of maple syrup to the pear-chestnut mix.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Onglet and Bavette is the new Filet

I love a good medium-rare Filet Mignon. It's tender and when prepared correctly almost melts in your mouth. The only problem with filet, compared to other parts of a cow, is that it is not as flavorful. It doesn't have much fat and comes without a bone, which both usually add quite a bit of flavour to the meat. It's also kind of "lazy" meat and doesn't get used much by a cow, means, it sits nicely protected in a body part where there is not much muscle activity, which as well, would make more flavourful meat.

There are however parts that get used a lot and are quite active. That's where butchers cut steaks such as Bavette or Onglet. Bavette, which is also called Flank-steak is cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow. Onglet, or Hanger-steak, is V-shaped and obtained from the diaphragm of the heifer or the steer. Both are significantly tougher than other meats. Therefore it's best prepared when marinated and quickly seared on both sides for about 3 minutes in a hot cast-iron pan. When served you're better to cut it into thin slices. With thin and tough cuts like this, you should only salt the meat after searing it.

original image found on wikipedia

Especially Onglet used to be what butchers would rather keep for themselves. Everyone likes their meat to be as tender as possible, so there has not been much interest in those kinds of cuts, until now.
But a butcher's preference can't be that bad, right? And really, it's not that tough if you prepare it right. Just make sure it stays medium rare or absolute maximum medium. Then everything should be fine.

In a very hot (cast iron) pan sear the steaks on both sides for 2.5-3 minutes
Onglet is so strong in flavour that it almost tastes organy, like liver or heart. For some people maybe a bit too intense. Bavette is a little milder, so that might be a better to start off with. But really Onglet is pretty damn good. You should try it.

After searing, wrap the steaks in aluminium foil and let it sit for at least 6 minutes.
Here in Germany Onglet and Bavette are so unpopular, or let's better say unknown, that they get sold (if they get sold) surprisingly cheap. We bought both at Galerie Lafayette, that fancy department store on Friedrichstraße. They were well-aged and each costed around 10€ for about 500g. That's nothing over here, where 100g of filet usually ranges between 4 and 8€.

it's perfect when it's medium rare!
PS: we ate ours unmarinated. Just had it reach room temperature, rubbed it in crushed pepper corns and a tiny bit of olive oil and seared it from both sides for 2.5 - 3 minutes in an extremely hot cast iron pan. Than wrapped the steaks in aluminum foil and had them rest for at least 6 minutes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grünkohl - German Style Green Kale with sausages and ham steak

If you think this is going to be light and healthy and vegan-friendly, you better leave this page now.
German style green kale is one of THE grandma generation dishes, that, served as a main dish usually contains quite a bit of (goose) fat and meat, bacon and sausages. You can also find it as a side dish with goose. It's rich, heavy and savoury - a perfect meal for cold days or after a long day of physical work outside. In North-West Germany it is served with a special kind of sausage, called "Pinkel", which contains grit, groats, oats and minced meat and is hard to get in the other parts of Germany. I'm not that attached to this kind of sausage and think you can just leave it out or make a mixture of grits and minced meat (pork) yourself and add a little bit of that mix to the cale. I faked a whole "Pinkel"-sausage, cause I couldn't get it anywhere here in Berlin but wanted to do it right. But it wasn't that great...so not worth the whole effort. The other sausage that are quite hard to get if you don't live in or around Germany is "Mettwurst". It's like a soft salami, smoked and strongly flavoured.
In North America and Australia you may be able to find it in German or Polish grocery stores.

The grey thing in the back is my home-made pinkel sausage. Again, not worth the whole effort. Therefore just ignore it.

What you need:

1-1.5 kg green cale (frozen)
50g goose fat
3/4l meat broth, highly concentrated 
(if you use these cubes or powder, take the double amount of what is usually required for this amount of water )
450g onions chopped
approx. 100g minced meat (pork)
50g grits
a dash of allspice
salt, pepper, sugar
white vinegar
500g smoked bacon
4 ham steaks
4 Mettwürste
1-4 tbsp oat flakes

In large sauce pan heat up the goose fat. Add chopped onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add minced meat and a dash of all spice and mix everything. Cook until the meat is well-done and crumbles.
Now add the frozen green cale. Heat up the meat broth and pour over green cale. Close the lid and let everything simmer at low heat so that the cale can defrost. Stir in the grits. Add the bacon (as a whole!) and two of the Mettwürste. Before adding prick the sausages with a fork several times, to make sure they won't burst. Let everything simmer at low heat for about two hours.
Remove the bacon and sausages and set aside.

Now season the cale with salt, pepper, sugar, mustard and a bit of vinegar, if necessary.
Let it sit at a cool place (fridge, balcony...) overnight.

The next day, heat up the cale again. It should be kind creamy and viscid. If it is too liquid, just slowly mix in some of the oat flakes until the cale reaches the right density. Cut the sausages and bacon that went into the cale the day before into bite-sized cubes and add them back to the cale and bring everything to a boil. Make sure to stir every once in a while to avoid the cale from burning on the bottom of the sauce pan. 
Meanwhile in a second saucepan heat up some water. 
Add the other sausages, as well as the ham steaks and let simmer for around 8-10 minutes.

Serve the green cale the ham steaks, sausages and potatoes.

The minced meat, grit, all spice and some of the onions that I added to the cale sort of replaced the "Pinkel" sausage here.