Thursday, May 31, 2012
Fennel, Chili, and Yogurt Roast Chicken/Nutzie's Pulled Pork
It's springtime, and that means farm chicken time at the Commissary. Two 4-lb beauties from J&D Moore's farm in Watseka were waiting for me in a cooler next to my weekly vegetables the last time I made a pickup. Frequent readers of this blog will recall that I'm always looking for new and ingenious ways to cook up chicken beyond the standard roasted or fried varieties - Wall Street Journal's May 10-11 weekend section again came to my rescue with a recipe for fennel, chili, and yogurt roast chicken, provided courtesy of Chef Ignacio Matto from Brooklyn's Isa Restaurant (there are also instructions for a parsley salad, but I skipped that this time). The recipe prep is really simple, consisting of using a mortar and pestle to grind whole black peppercorns, fennel seed, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt into a paste that coats the chicken (along with a little olive oil). After 10 minutes on a hot broiler pan in the oven, Greek-style yogurt is spread on the pieces to further tenderize, flavor, and cut some of the spice. You can see my results in the photo above (which, granted, doesn't look all that appetizing - my photo skills could use some work). The final dish was a little more aggressively spicy than I was expecting (the progeny, loath to touch anything with more flavor than a Grape-nut, of course declined to participate), but certainly not unpleasant. The 10 chicken pieces I managed to (sloppily, I might add) butcher from the whole bird were nicely tender, juicy, and fully cooked after only 25 minutes of oven time. I suspect we'll be eating this variety of roast chicken again sometime, possibly marinating the chicken for a couple of hours in advance per the chef's advice.
In the same newspaper issue (a page or two farther in), I found a nice recipe for mom-and-pop pulled pork, developed over the years by a Massachusetts restauranteur nicknamed "Nutzi", whose version includes a pork loin (with or without bone) roasted in the oven for several hours in lieu of wood smoking (the addition of liquid smoke provides the missing wood flavoring), then slathered in homemade barbecue sauce. I wasn't exactly seeking a new pulled pork prep, but I clipped the recipe nonetheless and filed it for a future occasion where I might need to feed a large group. Coincidentally, that occasion arrived sooner than I planned as 10 adults and 7 kids came by the Commissary for a little Indy 500 watching party this past Sunday. I was able to track down a 5.5 lb bone-in pork shoulder (no loins around) at my local ethnic grocery and brought it home. I placed it in a Dutch oven with about 2 cups of beef stock to help keep it moist and about a tablespoon of the liquid smoke (which is pretty potent stuff, I soon figured out, making the house smell like a bonfire in short order), covered it, and cooked it until it was fall-apart tender, about 4 hours. Once the pork is ready, the instructions call for you to combine it with a generous helping of the barbecue sauce, a bright red and tangy concoction with ketchup, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, brown sugar, honey, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt, and black pepper (whew). The meat tasted pretty good to me without it, but not wanting to deviate, I took a leap of faith and dumped in the sauce, which melded pretty well with the pork (although I might tone it down a little next time). For chow time, I served the sauced meat with hamburger buns, sliced gherkins, and a mustard cole slaw from one of my Saveur issues (I think I wrote about it here last November). Feedback from the visitors was pretty positive, with about 4 of the 5.5 lb of meat disappearing into the ether. As of this posting, I'm still happily working on the leftovers and waiting for the wood smell to completely fade from the family room upholstery....