Saturday, November 19, 2011

Best Kitchen Gadget Ever

A couple of months ago, before I knew I was on Imapp's hit list, we had an office potluck lunch. Julie, the office organizer extraordinaire, rounds everyone up for these things a few times a year. This year she also provided one of the best contributions to the feast: a couple of chickens cooked onsite in her counter-top rotisserie. The aroma of roasting chicken wafting through the office that morning was fabulous. Every one of us was a Pavlovian case study.

And Julie was a living infomercial. The chicken as delicious to eat as we all hoped, and a few of us went right out and ordered tabletop rotisseries.

I am no newcomer to kitchen stuff.  Here are a few:

The slow-cooker and I have had a rocky relationship. The convenience is the best part - throw all the stuff in the pot, turn it on, go off for the day, and come home to a lovely simmering stew.  There are a few snags. I have several slow-cooker cookbooks, but after cooking any assortment of ingredients for 6 hours or more, every meal tastes very similar.  Do you agree there's kind of a re-heated leftover taste to crock pot meals?  Which then makes eating the leftovers really undesirable.  Then, and I feel really bad about this, I thought things might change if I replaced my perfectly functional but stylistically-stuck-in-the-80's crock pot

with a brand spanking new cooker,one that looked more comfortable in my stainless steel and faux granite countertop kitchen.

I had trophy-wifed my crockpot!  Not only that, but I soon realized that the functional drawbacks of the original cooker (everything tastes like leftovers) were not resolved by my shiny new appliance. There's a lesson here,  and I'll leave that up to you.

I have an Acme juicer, which gets pulled out every couple of years when I go on a juicing binge. It's neither the most nor the least expensive, but it does the job.
It makes an annoying high-pitched racket while doing its thing, but does manage to suck out every bit of liquid from carrots, beets, apples, etc. (In fact, that's my favorite juice combo, enhanced only by some fresh ginger root. Yum!)

My Cuisinart food processor is a workhorse. I use it often, but hate cleaning the parts, and am fearful of that really sharp blade.

And there's my bread machine; which mostly rests peacefully in the pantry, but doesn't hold a grudge for being ignored. It still produces darn good bread on command.

But, oh, the rotisserie.

It's a Ronco, and a small one. If I were to do it over, I'd get the bigger one, which they say will roast a turkey up to 12 lbs.  Imagine that! I'll probably upgrade one of these days.

Side note: I'd been on the trail of the perfect roast chicken recipe for years and thought I had found it in Alice Water's "The Art of Simple Food". 

The recipe is so good, you might want to follow this link and give it a try yourself. (Or buy the book. It's one of my go-to cookbooks. She shows true respect for fresh ingredients, with preparations that are elegant in their simplicity.) In addition to the lovely fresh herbs and garlic she recommends tucking under the skin, there's one important step in the roasting. I think it makes all the difference. Half way through, you turn the whole chicken over. This lets the juices seep back through the chicken, keeping it succulently moist and flavorful.  I'll never roast a chicken in the oven another way.


As long as my rotisserie continues to do it's rotational magic, I'll never roast another chicken in the oven. Picture chickens roasting on the spit in the grocery store. Same idea, same redolent aroma, and those chicken juices run through and around the bird. The fat drips off and the skin is crispy-golden. It's a wonderful invention that makes over-done, dried chicken a thing of the past.

But wait! There's more!

I've also used it to roast a boneless leg of lamb (which I had first marinated in red wine, garlic, rosemary and olive oil)  I put tiny potatoes on the bottom so they cooked as the lamb fat dripped on them.  Okay, this is NOT a low-anything meal, but it was darn good. Here's a picture:

Pork tenderloin and kielbasa (on skewers) also works well. I'm beginning to think an old boot with the right marinade wouldn't be half bad. The appliance also comes with a basket, which I haven't used. They say you use it to cook shrimp or fish, stuff you wouldn't put on a spit or skewer. I imagine roasted veggies would work well too - carrots, zucchini, onions, mushrooms.

Hmmm - I think tonight's dinner menu is taking shape.

Bon Appetit!