A little (gluten free) fall treat

So despite the gorgeous sunshine we are still having, it has come time for me to accept that it is, in fact, autumn. I even wore a sweater this morning because it was getting a bit blustery! With thanksgiving just around the corner for Canadians, I figured I’d go through a few of my favorite recipes a week in advance.

I’ve posted photos before of my cooked chicken. This time however, we get a step-by-step of how it comes out so tender even without the skin left on. I know there are people out there completely appalled by that, but I really can’t stand any amount of fat left on meat. It’s just one of those sensations that turns my stomach. In case it doesn’t go without saying, make sure your chicken is well thawed at this point. Mine was tiny and had been in the fridge since the night before, then had been transferred to a pan of cold water in the morning (you can also fill up your sink to do this).

I spend a good deal of time cleaning up the chicken. If your chicken comes with organs included (usually in a bag in the stomach cavity), remove those and rinse the whole chicken in cold water, inside and out. Set the organs aside if you have them, and you can get to work on the chicken.

You can skip this step if you want the skin left on, and skip straight to dressing it up and preparing the stuffing. By all means, keep the skin on. I’m a bit of an oddball in this, but if there are others who really don’t like soggy chicken skin this is for them. I usually start near the chicken bum, because it is easier to get at the loose skin there. I go up along the back then, and down the next side. Drumsticks are left for last, and are the most difficult to remove, requiring a little bit of muscle to tug the skin off. (Gross, I know right?)

When you finish off getting the skin off, Chicken Little gets another bath. He then ends up in his bed. Usually, I would recommend a roaster, but I’m a poor writer and university student, so we are using a casserole dish for our yummy chicken goodness.

If you do have the tools available, pop in a wire cooking rack in the bottom of the roaster. This will prevent the chicken from sticking its butt to the bottom of the pot and being a sook when you try to take him out. I’ve never had much of a problem skipping this step (again, not spending $9.99 on a rack  when I can spend $9.99 and get a chicken) but I do know this has been a problem for other people roasting chickens.

If you want, you can have this dressing recipe made up the night before, and have it ready to go right in the chicken. Depending on how big of a chicken I have (and this is a small-ish one) I only use one or two slices of gluten free bread. Today, it’s Glutino’s Genius brand. Gluten free bread crumbles very easily, so I just crumble the pieces up with my bare hands. In goes a bit of butter (let’s say two tablespoons), a helping of savoury (let’s say two teaspoons), some fresh chopped chives (judge based on the size of your chicken, but we used 4 shoots), a little powdered garlic (barely a full teaspoon, you don’t want it too garlic-y!) and a little thyme (we are using fresh silver thyme from our garden). All this should be well mixed, and to add a little moisture to the chicken, add a little chicken broth or water. Only a small splash is needed to moisten the mix. I pack my stuffing in the chicken as much as possible at this point, but there is another school of thought that says stuffing should only be packed loosely to ensure proper cooking. If any dressing is left over, that gets popped in the oven in a small dish with the chicken (though it won’t need so long in the oven or it will burn). After all, who can say no to extra dressing?

Once the dressing is in Chicken Little’s belly, it’s time to put his fancy clothes on. He gets oiled up (or buttered up depending on what you prefer), and gets a sprinkling of thyme and savoury. A small amount of salt and a quick crack of pepper will be nice at this point too. Poke a couple rings of onion on him too (I used a little less than a half of one medium onion). As well, pour half a cup of chicken broth or water in with him. If you’ve kept the chicken organs, now is the time to put them in the bottom of the dish. This is more important if you use water, because it will add a little more flavour to whatever water is left at the end of the cooking and you will have a nicer gravy (if you decide to make gravy, that is).

Chicken Little is now ready for his nice, hot nap. Have the stove pre-heated to 450 degrees, and poke his little butt in their. Don’t forget to tuck him in though! Cover him with a lid if you have a roaster, and if you’re going the struggling writer route, make him nice and snuggly in tin foil (make sure it’s crimped around the edges of your dish). It will take ~2-3 hours to cook depending on the size of your chicken (if he’s not Chicken Little, but Chicken Super Large, allow extra time for him to get his groove on in the oven.)

We can now turn our attention to the veggies. I have my pot boiling at this point, and if we were going the Jiggs Dinner route, I’d have had my salt beef soaked overnight, rinsed, then put in the pot (this adds all the seasoning you would need). We aren’t though, because I have issues with the fat on cheap salt beef, and I didn’t want to spring $20 for the really good stuff (but it would have been sooooo good.)

Get all your veggies cut up and peeled. Today, we have a tonne of carrots, potato and a turnip. Keep everything but the turnip whole, and cut the turnip into semi-circles about an inch thick. All of this normally goes into a large stock pot with the salt beef, but last time I made this my very cheap stock pot sprung a hole and we got back to the poor writer and student argument. I’m here to teach you to cook, not break the bank.

Everything is popped in the pot to boil away. If you haven’t used salt beef, pop in a couple pinches of salt to bring out the flavour in your veggies. Now you can get started on your pie.

Pop out some gluten free flour. I keep Kingsmill bread mix on hand almost all the time, and use half a pouch and a cup of white rice flour in my pie crust. A different blend of flour can be used as well, and when my father make this recipe he usually adds coconut flour in, which gives the crust a light, sweet taste. I also throw in a teaspoon of baking powder and two tablespoons of white vinegar and two tablespoons of vanilla extract, a cup of brown sugar and a half cup of white sugar. The recipe also requires a cup of shortening (we use Crisco). All of this gets mixed together by hand or by a fork (I find a mixer just makes this too messy). Gluten free flour is a pain to work with, so rather than roll it out (you can, between two sheets of wax paper and then carefully place your crust), I simply press my dough into place, taking care that it is as even as possible.

When the flour is all in place, use a fork to poke a couple holes in the bottom of the crust. This prevents the dough from bubbling while it cooks pre-filling. You’ll want to put tinfoil around the edges of the crust at this point to prevent them from burning. Pop it on a rack below the chicken for ten minutes and let it bake up a little.

Get your filling ready now. Be very careful if you are doing this gluten free that the filling you are using is gluten free. E.D. Smith is one of the only brands of filling we can get around here, but there is a catch. Their pumpkin pie filling does contain gluten, however their tins of pure pumpkin do not. One tin of pure pumpkin will be perfect for this recipe.

In a bowl, combine your tin of pure pumpkin with a few spices, two eggs, 3/4 cup of evaporated milk. I (mostly) followed the recipe for filling on the inside of the pure pumpkin label. Ginger is wonderful in the filling, a well as cinnamon and ground cloves. A teaspoon or two of each will do just fine. All are strong spices, but cloves are especially so, so limit this to a teaspoon or less if you do add it at all.

Once the pie filling is prepared and your crust is done with the oven, you can ladle the pie filling into the dish (but take off that shiny tinfoil crust guard first, and pop it back on when the pie is filled). This can go right into the oven now.

When your chicken has been in the oven for an hour and a half (or more if it’s much larger), take it out and remove the tin foil. You may need to add a little extra water or broth at this point, and I usually add a small amount more of oil or butter to crisp up the skin/ exposed chicken flesh. Chicken Little is a bit vain and will take kindly to this. With fall in full swing, he’s lost his tan, so of course he doesn’t mind that you’d like to get him back to his summer glow. At this point, we are only looking to achieve a Jersey Shore level of bronze if the chicken has the skin left on. If not, we will settle for a healthier looking “I got this tan while hiking and applying just enough low-level sun screen” shade.

With your chicken and pie back in the oven you can relax for a half hour. You can begin to take up your  veggies, but do not throw out the water in your veggie pot if you want to make gravy. This is the part where I get my manly helpers involved, and they get to work serving this up (and cutting up salt beef if you’ve cooked it).

When Chicken Little has browned up a little, take him out, but leave the oven on for the pie. I got one of my helpers to carve up the chicken and plate it while I started on gravy, right in the chicken pan (or casserole dish). Mix a small amount of your veggie water and rice flour together in a cup until it is a homogenous white fluid, then add that to the chicken pan. Your chicken organs should be left in the pan, as well as any onions that have fallen off Chicken Little. All I use to darken my gravy is VH soy sauce, as most gravy browner I have seen contains gluten. Many soy sauces do as well, but VH is a safe choice.

Add soy sauce and a little of the veggie water to your taste. This is not an exact science, as the amount of water or broth that has boiled off will not be the same every time. You want a semi-thick sauce that isn’t too dark though, so try to gauge accordingly.

Your guests or helpers should have somehow gotten the food on their plates by now, and your gravy should be ready, so by all means go get your own food and sit down to eat. By the time you’re done your plate, take the pie out of the oven to cool. If your fancy self has an extra cooling rack floating around, put your pie on their, you awesome thing. Otherwise, just pop it in the microwave (clearly do not turn the microwave on though). This is a little trick my daddy taught me. He is the pie-making king, and while I got through this pie without calling him, the pie recipe in this post is a culmination of many phone calls that he has spent coaching me through my kitchen. Without him, I would probably be clueless.

This seems like an appropriate time for me to simply show you the finished product. I’m fairly confident that most people can serve pie without instructions, but by all means, berate me in the comments if you’d like me to hold your hand through this step 😉 . I apologize in advance that I dropped the ball on this one.

Next Monday, let’s remember what we’re thankful for. Today I’m thankful the sky didn’t fall and that Chicken Little was such a good sport about getting eaten. Joking aside though, I’m thankful for the friends I have here today, and thankful for my favourite little dinner guest. Seriously, when two of your favourite people are combined into one little person, almost nothing can top that.

Much love to everyone celebrating Thanksgiving on Monday, love to those celebrating next month south of the border, and love to those that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all.

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