I picked up Darksiders recently and really wanted to present a dish today that would ring with that kind of hellish, blood soaked, demon infested type of postapocalyptica. The following is something tasty, that visually captures that kind of vibe: Cranberry Glazed Chicken.
This is a modded version of a recipie I picked up in a cookbook.
Cranberry Glazed Chicken
- About 2 to 2 ˝ lbs of chicken. I like to use thighs but any chicken will do.
- 16 oz can of Cranberry sauce
- 1 bottle of French Salad Dressing
- 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce. You can also use a packet of onion soup for this.
Preheat the oven to 350
Arrange the pieces of chicken in rectangular baking dishes. You will probably need two.
Take everything but the chicken, pour them in a bowl together and mix it together thoroughly.
Pour the resulting mix into the baking dishes with the chicken in them.
Bake the chicken for one hour.
To make it tastier, you can spoon the glaze back over the chicken once or twice during the cooking process.
This is a great tasting dish, but one can not always find cranberry sauce for it year round. I solved his problem using the flavor improvisation principles described at the end of this blog, if you are interested.
Cranberry Sauce is sweet and sour. In finding a replacement for it I wanted to not only preserve that general flavor, but I wanted to replace it with something fruity.
Plum Sauce, used in Chinese cooking, seemed an almost perfect substitute. It is sweet and sour, with a little spice, and preserves the fruit theme of the dish. I picked mine up at the local Oriental grocer, but you can find it at Walmart or other supermarkets sometimes.
Quick Food History Fact: Before they had easy access to spices and chilies, people often would use fruit, like chutney for example, and vegetable, pickles of various sorts, based condiments to flavor food. This has been better preserved in East Asian, especially Japanese, cooking.
Given, that plum sauce will probably not go well with French or Russian dressing, what should we substitute? Looking at the flavor improv section below, those dressings basically contain fats (oil), some tart flavorings (usually vinegar, tomatoes), and some savory flavorings.
The old “Oriental” sesame dressing you can find at stores seemed a good replacement. It contains fats (usually peanut and sesame oil), tart flavorings (rice vinegar) savory flavorings (Soy Sauce).
The New Recipe
- About two lbs of chicken
- 16 oz bottle of Plum Sauce
- Bottle of Oriental Sesame Salad Dressing
- Two Tablespoons of Soy Sauce.
The procedure is the same as above.
Featured Skill: Flavor Improvisation 101
While a full treatment of improvisation in cooking is beyond the scope of this blog entry (for a good cook/book that talks about it try “The Improvisational Cook” by Sally Schneider), once one knows the basic types of ingredients that go into making a dish it is easier to find suitable substitutes. The basic types, with explanations when needed, are:
Fats: Oils, Butters, and Animal Fats.
Aromatics: Base flavorings that often (but not always) have a strong “aromatic” or smelling component. Examples include garlic, onions, scallions, ginger, and chilies
Acid/Tart Flavorings: Basically sour stuff, like vinegar, wine, yogurt, lemon juice, etc.
Salty/Savory Flavorings: Mostly things that round out a dish, cheese, avocado, anchovies, soy sauce, SE Asian fish sauce. etc.
Textural Elements: Things that add a physical feel to a dish, like nuts (think Cashew Chicken for an example), coconut, toasted sesame seeds, etc.
These are general categories and not strict dividing lines between ingredients.
Once one decodes how the flavoring of a dish works, it is easy to substitute other flavors into a dish to make it new.
The other half of flavor improv is knowing what flavors go together. That is a larger topic that I can hopefully cover some other time.