Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Coolio's Drunken Chicken

Truth be told, Coolio references a part of the anatomy in a colorful fashion when gauging the inebriation level of his poultry... but this is a family blog, so you'll have to use your imagination. Coolio's recipe basically consists of mixing up 1/4 cup portions of vodka, tequila, balsamic vinegar, and teriyaki sauce with a teaspoon of garlic and 12 ounces of beer... and then injecting it all into your bird before roasting it. I really had no idea whether this recipe would work at all... I've never used a turkey injector before, and it seems a little gimmicky and fairly counterintuitive. I mean, if you poke all these holes in your chicken, aren't you just creating more avenues for juices to leave the bird? It suffices to say that a quick Google didn't provide any Alton Brown or Harold McGhee based defenses of the injector method... it appears to be a technique completely ignored by mainstream food press... and I'm going to guess that's because it doesn't work.

That said... maybe all these so called "experts" have their heads in the sand and are ignoring the mighty train of culinary progress at their own peril? You never know. I already owned a baster with a little needle attachment that I've never used... so, hell, why not try it as my last Cookin' with Coolio recipe before the holidays? If the chicken came out dry and terrible from all the little holes, so be it.

To make this drunken chicken, you take a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, pour into a roasting pan, and then you put your 6-8 lb roaster on top. Next get out your giant turkey needle and the aforementioned bowl full of liquor... and just repeatedly inject that marinade all up in there. I won't say my hopes were high when what looked like 99.9% of the liquid just poured right back out of every hole I made with the injector... and that's before we'd even done any cooking. Not promising. I suppose the problem could have been due to my substandard equipment or bad technique, but being that I didn't even get how this was supposed to work on a theoretical basis... I didn't beat myself up over it.

So now I had a chicken punctured with lots of holes sitting in tomatoes and two cups of liquor liquid. Yay? Anyway... then you brush it with 2 tablespoons of honey and before seasoning liberally with salt and black and red pepper. Into a 375 degree oven it goes for 2 hours.

What I got... is pictured above... and guess what? It was actually really moist and juicy. No, really! Certainly as moist as any brined chicken I've made. The skin was also pretty crisp, and kind of reminiscent of BBQ chicken... I really liked the red pepper and honey flavors.

But... but... HOW!?

I really have no idea. Was it the partial braising? Certainly that helped with the dark meat, which was closest to it. Did the honey seal up the needle holes somehow when it caramelized? The honey at least did a great job of getting the skin crisp, in what must have been a very moist cooking environment. Did the injections actually work? It's hard to believe that this is what happened, but I can't reject it out of hand.

If I was really curious (and I'm not) I would make it again, but just pour the liquid directly into the roasting pan to see if it came out similarly. If it did, I probably wouldn't bother with the whole chicken and just do a braise of chicken parts... keeping the honey glaze on the skin... and then make a sauce out of the braising liquid.

In fact, I actually tried making a sauce last night... and it came out O.K... but the BBQ sauce angle didn't occur to me until after I made it and tasted it. What I did was strain it, fat separate it, then reduce until it was about a cup in volume... then add a simple roux from the separated chicken fat and flour to thicken it. Like I said, it was decent, but not perfect... probably needed a little sugar/honey and some hot pepper to bring about the BBQ sauce angle.

So that's the last of my Cookin' with Coolio posts... the cookbook went back to the library today, and I'm going to return to chichi recipes from Saveur and leave the ghetto gourmet-ing to my betters. I have to admit that I was pretty surprised how well both recipes I tried came out... especially given that I was skeptical of this one from the very beginning.