Showing posts with label tray bake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tray bake. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

When I made a serious effort to learn to cook in my early twenties, it seemed terribly important to impress dinner-party guests with fiddly platings and pointless twirls and swirls. (Thank goodness the ubiquitous sauce/plate skidmark had not yet been invented, because who knows what horrors I would have perpetrated on the plate.) These days, in my fifties, I have a much more uncomplicated approach to entertaining, and when I'm expecting guests I pour all the effort into creating simple, delicious dishes that sing with clean flavours.

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

This is the sort of food people want to enjoy when they eat in your home. Of course there is a place for exquisite cutting-edge cuisine that looks like a flower garden exploded on a plate, but that place is not your family table. Honest food made with love and good ingredients will always knock the socks off your guests - and I promise you that most professional chefs melt into puddles of delight when presented with a homely classic such as roast chicken, a rustic veggie soup or a fall-apart beef stew.

This unusual but delicious combination of clean fruity flavours highlights the versatility of Verjuice, which lends a pleasant sweet acidity to this rustic dish.  It takes a little time to fry the chicken pieces and onions before they go into the oven, but it’s well worth the effort, because the sticky golden residue that forms on the bottom of the pan adds gorgeous flavour to the final dish, and the chicken pieces look so beautifully golden and rustly.  

This is the penultimate in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies),

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

20 (about 750 g) small pickling onions
3 Tbsp (45 ml) oil, for frying
12 free-range chicken pieces (breasts, thighs & drumsticks)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine
1 bunch red grapes, stripped from their stems
1 bunch green grapes, stripped from their stems
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.  Cover the onions with boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes (this loosens their skins).

In the meantime, heat the oil in a large shallow pan and fry the chicken, in batches and skin-side down, over a medium-high heat, until the skins are crisp and a beautiful golden brown.  (Don’t turn the pieces over or let them cook through.)  Set aside on a plate.

Cut each blanched onion in half lengthways, trim the tops and bottoms, and slip off the skins.  Fry, cut side down, in the hot chicken fat left in the pan, for 3 minutes, or until nicely caramelised. Watch them like a hawk so they don’t burn. Carefully turn the onions over using tongs and fry for a further 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Add the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and garlic to the pan and cook over a low heat for a minute, without allowing the garlic to brown.

Deglaze the pan with the Verjuice and wine, stirring and scraping to loosen the golden sediment on the bottom of the pan.  Tip any juices that have accumulated under the chicken into the pan. Simmer over a brisk heat for two minutes to burn off the alcohol.

Arrange the chicken pieces and onions in a roasting tray, and tuck in the grapes.  Pour the hot wine/Verjuice mixture around the chicken, and scatter over the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.  Season to taste with salt and milled black pepper.

Bake at 180 ºC for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the grapes are beginning to collapse.

Serve immediately with a crisp green salad, plus crusty bread to mop up the juices.    

Serves 4-6.

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Effortless Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray-Bake

No one in my family likes fennel.  Or at least they didn't until last weekend, when I set out to change their minds by making this tray-bake brimming with lovely fresh fennel, snappy pork chipolatas, shallots and dear little carrots.

Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray Bake
Roasting vegetables concentrates their flavours and brings out 
the sweetness in shallots, carrots and fennel.
My husband, who loathes the taste of aniseed, demolished his plateful - 'But the fennel is so sweet and delicious!', he cried - and so did two of the teens.  So there you go: you can bend your family's tastes to your will if you persist.

I added the pork sausages because they taste wonderful with fennel, but mostly because everyone in my household adores them. If I sprinkled them cunningly around the dish, I reasoned, they'd make the medicine go down, and they did.

This is an absolute breeze  to make, and (as is the case with all wonderful, abundant tray bakes) you can add anything else you might fancy - black olives and feta at the end, for example. I've used a simple dressing (I like to think of veggie tray-bakes as cooked salads) of lemon juice and olive oil, with just a little garlic and white wine, but feel to experiment with other ingredients, plus herbs of your choice. I'm very fond of rosemary with fennel, but this would also be good with plenty of fresh thyme.

If you can't find shallots - which are still like hens' teeth in Cape Town; these ones are from Woolies - use onions, quartered lengthways, or whole pearl onions.

Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray Bake
Top-quality veggies make all the difference here.
Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray Bake
4 large fennel bulbs, trimmed
500 g cherry tomatoes, halved
350 g shallots, or 4 onions, quartered lengthways
a large sprig of rosemary, leaves stripped
250 g baby carrots
300 g pork chipolatas (If you can't find tiny ones, buy the finger-length ones and twist each one into two)
flaky sea salt and milled black pepper

For the dressing: 
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) white wine
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice, plus extra for sprinkling
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp (5 ml) brown sugar

Heat the oven to 190 ºC.  Cut the stalks off the fennel and slice the bulbs lengthways into quarters (or sixths, if they are very large). Use a paring knife to chip away any tough pieces of white core.

Put all the ingredients for the bake in a large, deep roasting tray.  Season generously with salt and pepper, and scatter the rosemary leaves over the top.   Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour this over the contents of the tray. Mix well so every piece is coated - I use my hands for this.

Cover the dish tightly with tin foil and bake at 190 ºC for 30 minutes.  Now remove the foil, turn the oven up to 200 ºC (fan on, if your oven has one) for 25-30 minutes, or until all the moisture has evaporated, the fennel is tender and sticky, and the sausages are a rich brown.

Sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice over the tray and take it hot to the table.

Serves 4 as a generous main dish; 6 as a side. 

More of my fennel recipes:

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