Laissez les bons Temps Rouler, Mate

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  I would say sorry, but….meh.  Quite honestly I just didn’t feel like writing.  Between work, an upcoming bathroom renovation, and everything else life throws at you, eating leftover Easter chocolate on the lounge with a snuggly snoring kitty on my lap was way more attractive than writing a blog.  But anyway, I’m back after a little break and I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew (quite literally) with today’s test.

Today I’m testing a full meal. A main with meat and two sides. I let the hubby pick this one out from the April 2017 edition of Taste.com.au’s magazine.  And what he chose somewhat took me back to my roots – Creole chicken, red rice and black beans and spicy garlic spinach.  My family lived in New Orleans for a few years while my dad went to law school in Tulane.  I was pretty young, but spicy tomatoey smells that creep off a good jamablaya always take me back to my mum (to me and the other Francophones out there, my Maman), cooking this famous dish in the kitchen.

Taste magazine is a staple of Australian home cooking magazines alongside Australian Women’s Weekly and Delicious magazine.  I love the photographs in Taste.  They always have a knack to make anything look delicious and appetizing.  But, there have been times that I’ve found the recipes being high inaccurate, leading to undercooked dishes and off tastes.  So let’s dive in and get started on this review!

Creole Chicken

4 chicken marylands
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Finely grated rind and juice of 3 limes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 210C/190C fan forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel, then use a sharp knife to score in parallel lines.

Place the paprika, cumin, allspice, garlic powder, lime zest and juice, and oil in a bowl. Stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper. Rub onto the chicken. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible, to marinate.

Place the chicken on prepared tray. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is lightly blackened and firm to touch.

The Good, the Bad, the Inedible

There is one thing with this recipe that is fundamentally wrong (and downright stupid).  Unless you have midget chickens, or you don’t know the difference between spatch cock and chicken, there is absolutely no way you can cook 4 chicken marylands at once and completely in 25 minutes.  Seriously Taste and Fast Ed, what were you thinking?!

Let’s make something very clear here.  If you are a national publication where experienced cooks as well as novices are relying on your publication to show them how to make a show stopping meal, make your instructions specific.  Tell the reader what weight of meat the recipe requires, or at least tell them to what internal temperature they need to cook the meat to.  Unless you’re following that shitty and stupid trend on Facebook where you eat chicken cooked rare, or you want salmonella poisoning, then yes by all means cook these birds for only 25 minutes!  But if you want to stay alive like me, check the weight of your chicken legs, and calculate how long you need to cook them for.  “Firm to the touch” doesn’t mean shit. Typically I use 30 minutes for every half kilo of meat, and when the internal cooking temperature reaches 75 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Fahrenheit).  That’s never steered me wrong.



Now, on to the seasoning.  This is close to Creole seasoning, but just doesn’t do it for me.  Traditional Creole seasoning is earthy, garlicky and above all else, has a bit of a spicy kick to it.  With this seasoning, all you taste is lime.  Not one recipe I have seen calls for limes in a creole seasoning.  Granted though, the lime zest and juice does give it a nice punch, but three limes is just way too much.  I would suggest cut the limes back by half, and add a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to give it that kick this seasoning needs.  Throw in a few pinches of dried herbs as well if you want.

Red Rice and Black Beans

2 bacon rashers, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
750ml (3 cups) hot chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon ground sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
400g (12 ounces) can black beans, drained, rinsed
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the bacon in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, until well browned. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and cook until the mixture begins to stick to the base of the pan.

Add the chicken stock, sage and thyme and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the moisture has been absorbed. Stir in the beans. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with the lid and set aside for 20 minutes. Fluff the mixture with a fork just before serving.

This is Fast Ed’s version of the traditional New Orleans dish Red Beans and Rice.  Now all the ingredients seem fine and taste okay .  But this side dish to be honest, is pretty ordinary and two-dimensional.  Like the ragu I made in a previous post, this just tastes like a tin of tomatoes and some rice.  Really nothing to write home to Maman about.


I played around with this and tried a few different ways to get the depth of flavour, from different seasonings to different types of stock and nothing really met my expectations.  Then I found the answer.

Beer.

Glorious beer!

Replacing the stock with beer and adding a couple of spices also used in the chicken just took this side to a whole new level along with changing the texture of the rice and making it so much more moist and soft.  And oh man, it was pretty tasty!  I would use any light coloured beer you have.  A dark ale would make it a bit too over the top I reckon, but a lager works perfectly.

The other flaw with this side dish is unless you have a hollow leg, this won’t serve 4 people, it’s more 6 serves in the proportions of this recipe, so I would half everything if you want to not have any leftovers.

Spicy Garlic Spinach

60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 French shallots, very finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
8 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Pour the vegetable and sesame oils into a large frying pan. Heat the pan over high heat, then cook the shallot and garlic for 2 minutes or until aromatic and beginning to brown.

Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the spinach mixture to a colander to drain briefly before serving.

Don’t bother making this.  There’s no saving this one.  Cooked spinach is gross anyway.

No, seriously.  Just don’t bother!

So here is my version of the Creole Chicken and Red Rice and Black Beans.  Enjoy!

Creole Chicken à la Clem

4 chicken marylands
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 and a half limes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 210C/190C fan forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel, then use a sharp knife to score in parallel lines.

Place the paprika, cumin, allspice, garlic powder, lime zest and juice, and oil in a bowl. Stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper. Rub onto the chicken. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible, to marinate.

Place the chicken on prepared tray. Bake until the chicken is lightly blackened and is at an internal temperature of 75 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Farenheit).  The chicken will be well done if you allow 30 minutes of cooking time per half kilo.

Red Rice and Black Beans

1 bacon rashers, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle of beer
1/2 teaspoon ground sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tespoon paprika
1/2 can to full can of kidney or black beans, drained, rinsed
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the bacon in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, until well browned. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and cook until the mixture begins to stick to the base of the pan.

Add the chicken stock, sage and thyme and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the moisture has been absorbed. Stir in the beans. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with the lid and set aside for 20 minutes. Fluff the mixture with a fork just before serving.