September 16th, 2011

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Column - Fowl Play: Counting My Chickens

Published in the City Hub and City News.

Even after all the fancy food, one meal still guaranteed to put a smile on my dial is the humble roast chook. I’m partial to a slab of juicy breast, a slathering of homemade stuffing, some gravy (okay - organic chicken jus), dotted with baby, green peas. Instead of chips, I’m more likely to transform the humble potato into something thrice cooked, and cooled in the freezer, to ensure a crunchy golden crust around a fluffy, white centre.

Chick Chick Zoom
With the weather trending warmer, I prefer my chicken cold. I’m happy with a range of Aussie barbeque salad favourites, like green bean salad and tasty coleslaw. And who can pass up a decent potato salad? Sometimes getting the time to prepare it all is my biggest stumbling block. So it’s nice to see that Brasa Chicken have taken those Lilydale free-range chooks one-step further and are now delivering rotisserie-cooked chicken to your door! You can expect a decent range of sides and salads, in a family meal that travels better for less money than your average take-away. I road-tested the Annandale outlet recently, and it got my thumbs up. They’ve launched six stores already, with another nine hot on their heels!

Teased For Tandoori
Of course the chicken of my childhood wasn’t all Aussie favourites. With a grandmother born in Pakistan, and six months in Kuala Lumpur as a six year old, the items in my school lunch box had a tendency to make the other kids screw up their nose! Needless to say, that didn’t put me off my tandoori chicken, carefully wrapped to go by Surjit’s Indian Restaurant in Strathfield. These days when I want a bit, I head to Aki’s in Woolloomooloo. Since Monday evening, Aki's now holds a coveted ‘Chefs Hat’, making it Australia’s only Indian restaurant who does. Kumar Mahadevan's other restaurant Abhi’s was actually the first Indian restaurant to achieve this level of critical acclaim. If only I’d known it was just up the road from where I first discovered this style of cooking as a youngster, perhaps I’d have been gobbling his mouth-watering Tandoori Spatchcock for the last thirty years! Get in there quick and get yourself some before the rest of Sydney buys the 2012 SMH Good Food Guide.

Conflicted On KFC
You know the line a food critic’s supposed to take about KFC is relatively simple - I’m supposed to condemn it; and you know, really I do. Urban legends still bounce around the internet alleging the ‘real’ reason behind their change of name from Kentucky Fried Chicken; and they really did hold out on removing palm oil and trans fats a bit too long. So in public health terms at least, the Colonel really didn’t know best. Chef Darren Simpson on the other hand has impressed me at his La Scala on Jersey restaurant. So I decided to risk all credibility to give his new Signature Range of KFC burgers a go. Sure, I wanted to hate them – and I feared putting his name to them might be professional suicide for him too. Damn, it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten at KFC. Sure the bacon could do with some searing; and there was too much Caesar Salad style sauce; but the lettuce was crisp; the bun was tasty; and the more flavoursome chicken was less fatty and lightly coated. In a nutshell, I’d still rather nobody (including hypocrite me) ate KFC. We all know if they’re calling the chicken in these burgers free-range, one can reasonably surmise that the rest of their chook is not. However anything that switches more people to free-range chicken, particularly at low cost, is okay with the trying-not-to-turn-foodie-elitist me.

The Ethical Bird
I’ll leave you with the de-feathered fowl I really do buy for home. They’re pasture-raised chickens from Poultry of Burrawong. They’re farmed (and processed on-site) just north of Kempsey. They’re free from hormones, chemicals and antibiotics (from paddock to plate) and they forage outdoors on nice, green river flats. Of course I pick them up more locally at Feather and Bone in Rozelle. I reckon my home-chef gives most rotisserie joints a run for their money on our own barbeque, too. Sunday roast has never been so damn fine.