Yesterday, something got me worried at work.
A.K., a colleague of mine whom I’ve barely known for about 5 months, has sworn me with her professionalism, mature thinking, independent personality, and life experiences. I always bring my lunch to work, while she often has take-outs and spends her lunch break with me. We enjoy exchanging views about so many things, be it work-related, family and friends, or sometimes, cultures and foods. (Ah, still can’t run away from food! *LOL*) I guess what first tied us together was our experience as a college student abroad. Of course, she’s a few years more senior than I am. I’ve got so much to learn from her.
We started out from the same college locally before getting transferred to another university overseas. A.K. ended up in England, where she met her husband and that changed her life forever. I wound up in the U.S., where my life was changed forever. From her, I got to know that in England, trying fish and chips, as well as eating Yorkshire pudding together with beef roast and gravy are a must. I remember when I was putting up an article on pancakes, I kept bugging her with my questions on Yorkshire pudding simply because I haven’t tried that myself. Haha!
I didn’t get to see A.K. at the start of the week, which got me wondering how she’d been. Yesterday morning, she came back – but with a pale and slightly bloated face, and a frail body. I immediately had a shiver when she told me that she’s lost 20 percent of control over the right side of her face. A viral infection is suspected, but that’s yet to confirm. I feel so awful about what she’s going through. What’s making me worried even more is that she’s expecting a baby, and I know that’s not going to be easy on her. These days, she seems tired and vulnerable. Definitely not the A.K. I saw when we first knew each other. Life is SO unpredictable! *Sigh*
After a brief conversation, we parted for our own desks and started working again. I suppose A.K. felt even worse after that. I watched her left work not too long thereafter. I thought I could talk to her during lunch break yesterday. Alas, that never happened. How I wish I could chat with her to cheer her up, like how she’s done to me occasionally when I’m down and tired. Looking on the bright side, the zombie me was elated to see her back with a smile on her face today. Glad to hear that she’s feeling better physically and emotionally. I hope better things are coming her way. Entering motherhood does sound exciting and yet challenging!
Compared to her days abroad, A.K. doesn’t really cook now. She’d told me once her greatest feat in the kitchen – back then – was making a successful roast for a Christmas dinner. Feeling very curious and motivated, I too made my first roast because of her.
I asked myself, “Why haven’t you tried making roast!?” Because I almost always got pampered by my dearest American family back in the States. There was always roast chicken, roast goat’s meat or roast ham, with oodles of potatoes and carrots ladled with warm gravy atop. What a comfort food that I miss dearly.
On one Saturday afternoon last month, after gathering all the ingredients, I began preparing for dinner. (Well, I contributed only two dishes, namely, the roast chicken and cream of mushrooms. I’ll blog about the latter sometime soon.) See, I love cutting and chopping up stuff except onions. Luckily, no one is around me when I shed tears. Tsk, tsk!
As I learn to cook and bake along, I’ve come to realize I can sometimes be
crazy unpredictable. Carrots and potatoes weren’t in my plan until I saw a few of them lying on the counter. Recalling what my American mom and sisters would do to their roast, I only came to knew later on that I should have covered the whole pan of chicken and veggies with aluminum foil for the first hour of baking! (The bird was humongous for my 8x8-inch pan to be covered with a lid. Plus, my oven is pretty small compared to the one I had in the States.) The juice of the chicken at the bottom of the pan didn’t help with moistening the veggies either. *Sob* You know, the veggies turned out a tad dry and crisp! At least that was what my baby brother said. *Slap myself*
The lazy Pei-Lin also relinquished the idea of thickening the "meat juice" with cornstarch, which is what my American family would do to theirs. With my American family, a big portion of the roast potatoes are sometimes churned into mashed potatoes, to which the gravy is then ladled over to serve. Yummy!
Besides devouring the fruits of your labor, I suppose for any home cooks and bakers, the best part is to see your loved ones enjoying what you’ve made for them. I have a conservative Chinese dad and younger brothers whose taste buds just aren’t that adventurous. Oftentimes, what I’ve made doesn’t really agree with their palates. But on that Saturday evening, these words of theirs are forever etched in my brain, “哇,妳整d雞仲唔錯喔…唔會老又幾入味!” (In spoken Cantonese: “Wow, the chicken you made isn’t too shabby … not rubbery in texture but flavorful!”)
Roast Chicken, Carrots and Potatoes With Rosemary 香草燒雞及甘筍薯仔
Adapted from "I Love Baking," by Emily Wong 改自《香噴噴烤焗料理》。Emily Wong 著
* When it comes to cooking (though this particular one requires roasting in the oven), I almost always execute my cooking escapades by eyeballing everything. *
1 whole large chicken -- rinsed to wash thoroughly, then pat dry really well OR simply invert the bird so that its cavity faced down and let it drain away in a large colander, which was what I did
* Dang, I forgot to jot down how much it weighed! I was too excited! *
4~5 long sprigs of fresh rosemary -- remove the leaves and reserve, discard the stems
2 medium-sized onions / 5 shallots -- minced
* I used red onions. No wonder they made me cry so bad. *
4 whole garlic -- peeled and minced
* WHOLE -- NOT cloves of garlic. *
4~6 Tbsp olive oil
2.5~4 tsp salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper -- to taste
Ground paprika -- to taste but optional
1 lemon -- washed, pat dry and cut into halves
Enough carrots -- have them peeled, washed and cut into large chunks prior to baking
* Forgot how many carrots I used there. Honestly, this doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out. *
Enough potatoes -- have them peeled, washed and cut into large chunks prior to baking
* Forgot how many potatoes I used there. Honestly, this doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out. *
Salt -- to taste
Freshly ground black pepper -- to taste
Enough sprig(s) of fresh rosemary -- to taste; remove the leaves and reserve, discard the stem(s); optional, though
A little bit of light soy sauce 生抽 -- to taste
* Optional if you like a sweet glaze. But, my fussy family doesn't. *
- Combine (A) together for marinade. Then, rub the inside and outside of the bird really well with the marinade. Place the lemon halves into the bird's cavity; place the marinade-smeared chicken in the baking/roasting pan that you're planning on using later for baking. Next, cover with a sheet of cling wrap and let it marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
* I marinated mine for 4 hours in room temperature. *
* I don't know why I always chuckle whenever I do the above. It's awkward I suppose. Haha! *
- If you did marinate the chicken in the fridge, remove it from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so just to warm it up slightly. Brush off any solids from the marinade, e.g. rosemary and minced onions, from the surface of the bird to avoid burning.
- Season (B) with (C), then arrange the seasoned veggies in the roasting pan. (Just stuff them in any corner available. Of course, don't crowd the whole pan!) Now, cover the whole pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil -- making sure that the foil clings onto the pan pretty well.
- Bake the whole deal at 180°C for 1 hour or till the chicken and both the veggies are done. To know when they are done, remove the foil:
- For the bird, just stick a knife or skewer in any part of the chicken that comes with the most flesh, and when juices run clear, the bird is fully cooked!
- For the potatoes and carrots, just stick a knife or skewer in them, and they're done when they can be poked through easily.
- Now, for the glaze, combine (D) together and glaze the chicken with it. Return the bird to the oven, without the foil on, and bake it at 180°C for another 10 minutes or till the skin has crisped up and to give it that sheen.
- Remove the bird from the oven and set it aside for 5~10 minutes to let the juice of the meat permeate evenly before carving/chopping to serve.
The remnants of the bird, after dinner. For five small eaters, this ain't bad!