Sunday, June 1, 2008

Andak Djaaj?

Spit roasted chicken
These days the answer to the aforementioned question, which means do you have chicken is almost always ma’afi, khalaas - no more, finished. Of course, as you may have guessed, we are going through a chicken shortage these days. On rare occasions if I do happen to stumble upon a rare sighting on one of my sojourns, I go into the hoarding mode.

Similar to the egg deficiency this is also due to the recent bird flu epidemic. This is particularly agonizing in a country which, after cheese, loves chicken. Think chicken shwarma, chicken kebob, chicken kefta, chicken samoosa, chicken shish tawouk, chicken sandweesh, chicken puffs, chicken hariss, chicken escallop, chicken fatayer, chicken shorba, chicken beryani…I can continue, but you get my drift.

Prices for chicken have increased tremendously since my arrival as well. When I first arrived a whole chicken had cost 12 riyals, now it is 19 riyals. They sell chickens per piece here, not by the pound or kilo. They are also much smaller then what I am generally used to, so if I am making something that everyone loves, (southern style fried chicken comes to mind), I may use 2 or more.

We have however found a few solutions for this. First of all we have started to eat frozen chicken. I have begun to buy copious amounts of frozen boneless chicken breasts. So we now eat a lot of stir fries. But that’s as far as I will go, since I detest frozen whole chicken. I must admit I am also spoiled. I don’t want to defrost it, remove the skin and cut it into pieces myself. I usually get this done when I purchase fresh ones. This service is efficient, courteous and always free 'Madam chicken ready'.

A friend of mine has found her own solution. She hits the stores as soon as they open, 7:30 am, (it still bewilders me why everything starts so early here) and buys as many as she can lay her hands on and will also be able to squeeze into her freezer.

Now those who know me know I am definitely NOT a morning person. In college I would never register for a class which started earlier then 10:00 am, no matter how wonderfully enlightening and fulfilling it may have been. Even then I would drag my sorry body out of bed at 9:45 am whilst cursing myself continuously. Thank God I lived on campus and my first class was right down the hill. Some of you might be thinking I was too busy partying all night, but alas, not so. I was a CS major and spent many a night, often going into the wee hours of morning, spending quality time with my computer.

But K, who is a morning person, will often go out on weekend mornings and hunt down a few. Occasionally he will go to the wholesale market where one can purchase live chickens and have them ‘prepared’ on spot. Besides chicken, the wholesale market is also a great place to buy eggs, other types of meat, seafood and a large array of seasonal and extremely fresh fruits and vegetables.

Yet I suppose everyone is doing the same and everyone’s freezers are full to the brim with chickens. So, you might ask, what shortage? Maybe this is all an evil marketing ploy…

The following is a recipe for brined roasted chicken. Brining makes the meat well seasoned and juicier. I usually put it on a rotisserie since my oven came equipped with one, but the conventional method works just as well.

Roast Chicken

1 large or 2 Qatar sized chickens – about 3 lbs total
1 gallon water – or enough to cover the chicken in large vessel
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1 lemon

Put water in a large bowl and add salt, sugar (if using) and garlic. Cut the lemon into half and squeeze juice into liquid. Add rind as well, and mix well. Make sure all the salt has dissolved. Water should be salty, but not painfully so. If it is too salty add more water. Put chicken into this mixture, turn it over a few times, cover and leave in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 F / 220 C degrees. Remove chicken from brine and shake off all water. Pat dry. Place chicken on roasting pan and place in oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden and juices are clear.

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before carving.

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