Q. If one has forgotten to thaw chicken before attempting dinner and one does not have a microwave oven, what options are still open? Obviously, roast, stuffed chicken is out of the question. Can one poach or bake it in some tasty, convenient way?
A. There are two quick ways to thaw a chicken or parts of it:
*Thawing Method One: Place chicken or parts in a pan with water to cover (white wine, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, sliced onion and salt -- 1 teaspoon per quart -- are optional). Bring to a boil and simmer until mostly thawed. Cool and cut into the desired pieces. Then finish cooking either in the stock or with the flavoring adjuncts.
*Thawing Method Two: Place the chicken or parts in an oven dish, season, and bake in a 400-degree oven. When thawed, cut the chicken into pieces and finish baking with the flavoring adjuncts.
With either method, first start cooking the chicken, then prepare other parts of the meal. During this time, one can prepare chicken flavoring adjuncts. Poached Chicken Flavorings ---
There are many possible variations on poached chicken. For the best flavor, start saute'ing onion, garlic or other minced, diced or shredded vegetables in fat -- butter, margarine or vegetable oil. When the vegetables are soft, add flour, heat and stir. This makes a white roux directly on the vegetables. Roux, by the way, is a blend of equal volumes of fat and flour; when barely cooked, it's white, when cooked to a light tan, it's called blond roux, and when cooked to a deeper brown, it's a brown roux.
Remove the pan from the fire and add boiling chicken stock (the liquid in which the chicken pieces are poaching). Replenish with water the liquid that was removed.
Here are three flavoring ideas:
Curried chicken: Over medium heat, fry one onion, diced, in 2 tablespoons of butter. When the onion is translucent and soft, add 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1 carrot, shredded, and 1 celery stalk, diced. Cook over low heat 5 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour. Cook two minutes (the flour should foam) and remove from flame. Add 1 cup of the boiling chicken stock (replace with a cup of water) and whisk to prevent lumps. Bring back to a boil, add a bay leaf, a few grindings of black pepper and salt to taste. Simmer 15 minutes. When the chicken is done, pour this sauce over it. To whiten the curry sauce, add several tablespoons of yogurt, sour cream or whipping cream just before serving.
Chicken Argenteuil: over medium heat, fry one onion, minced, in 2 tablespoons of butter. When translucent and soft, add 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour. Heat 2 minutes (the flour should foam) and remove from flame. Add 1 cup of the boiling chicken stock (replace with water) and whisk to prevent lumps. While the sauce simmers, cut the tough ends off a half-pound of asparagus. Plunge into boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain and cool under running cold water. Cut off the tips (about 1 inch long) of the asparagus, place the cooked stalks and the simmered sauce in a blender. Pure'e, then sieve out any strands, place chicken on serving platter and pour the sauce over it. Top with the cooked asparagus tips. For more color and a gratineed flavor, stir in a quarter cup of sour cream or cre me frai che, top with grated gruye re and broil 30 to 60 seconds.
Chicken with Sorrel (if you can't find sorrel, use spinach and cook it a minute or two longer than you'd cook sorrel: Rinse sorrel leaves (a lemony member of the dock family available in some specialty stores) under cold water. Place in saucepan with only a tablespoon of water. Cover and steam about 2 minutes. Arrange a bed of steamed sorrel on the buttered bottom of an ovenproof dish. Arrange cooked chicken on top. Pour over it a cream sauce (made just as the Argenteuil but without the asparagus), cover with shredded gruye re and broil 30 to 60 seconds. Baked Chicken Flavorings -------
Again, there are many possibilities. Halfway through baking, one should break the chicken pieces apart (or remove the whole chicken, let it cool on a plate for 5 minutes, then cut into pieces). At this point, one can add a sauce or other adjuncts and cook the chicken with them. Two possibilities for baked chicken:
Spanish-style: Cut two onions and two sweet peppers (red or green) into strips. Slice 6 ounces of chorizo or pepperoni sausage. Gently fry the meat and vegetables in a tablespoon of olive oil until the onions and peppers are barely soft. Season with salt, black pepper and a half teaspoon of rosemary (pinch between fingers to help extract flavor). Set half-baked chicken pieces on the seasoned vegetables, and spoon some on top. Continue cooking in oven until the meat next to the bones is no longer pink (cut into the largest piece to see).
Provenc,ale: Gently saute' two whole, peeled garlic cloves (pound each with your fist to slightly crush, then peel off papery coat) in a tablespoon or two of virgin olive oil. Add several tablespoons of capers and 2 tomatoes, coarsely diced. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium flame about 3 minutes (to soften tomato flesh), add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley and the baked chicken pieces. Stir together, heat and serve.