Thursday, December 10, 2015

Happiness is Homemade. A Christmas Roast-Up with Chef Ajay Chopra

So the winter (though minuscule in Mumbai) is here. The weather, the feel good air and the season of festivity usually gets tomeon 1st Dec itself. And it was no different this year. I love winter because it is also the season of delicious slow cooked winter treats, Undhiyu, Meat bhaat, slow cooked stews and roasts. For me it is also the season of Roast Chicken.

I remember the roast chicken I ordered a few years ago from Katy's Kitchen a catering outfit run by my friends Kurush and Rhea Dalal. It was so lovely to sit down to that meal! And ever since its been on my "scary but want to make list." The thing with Roast chicken — the gorgeous golden skin and juicy flavourful meat kind — is its one of those things that is simple for those who do it and complicated for newbies.

 My friends Saee and Rhea make it look like a breeze, but what should be simple, actually scared me. The idea of roasting a whole chicken just seemed so challenging! So much technique, (or so it seemed) and then the questions...  should one brine, marinate, season? or all of the above? how to truss? how long to roast. It sounded pretty complicated and time consuming to do on my own.  And I was not alone in this, many of the attendees at the studio and my friends echoed these thoughts.

But in the spirit of turning 40 and conquering my fears I had put this on my bucket-list. That said every time I reviewed said list, I'd skim over the item. I kept procrastinating over it! I needed to break the ice so to speak. The solution came from an unexpected quarter.

(OK and now I HAVE to say this here! I'm STILL patting myself on the back for the solution I found and I promise each of you that use this solution over the coming months are going to thank me for it.)
What if I told you that you could roast your own chicken, maybe get your kids involved to help even, have all the fun with a fraction of the hassle of running around shopping, prepping, marinating, and potentially messing up at the end?

I challenged my friend Chef Ajay Chopra to create a ready to cook meal kit for a whole roast chicken. Ajay of course should need no introduction, the man has so many fantastic accomplishments to his name, five star chef, Masterchef judge, TV show host and more. Most recently he is also the man behind Burgundy Box, a company that offers DIY meal kits personally designed by him. He had brought me some boxes to play with way back in Ajay accepted the challenge. And a few days later called to say would I try it out?

Now the other thing I am big on after winter foods, is getting together for cook-ups. There is so much fun to be had in cooking a meal and sitting down to eat it together. And our communal table at the studio offers the perfect place to do this. So I got a food loving friends together at the studio for a Meet The Chef Christmas Special (A monthly session at the studio in which people can sign up to cook with a Chef). We readied ourselves to roast some chickens on 2nd December! In fact we went the whole hog... er chicken... and decked out the studio with tinsel and bling. Never to early to get into the festive mood I say!

Everyone arrived well in time on the day, I had Saee, Rhea, Sandeep, Disha, Prathista, Dipali, Rachna, Romi and Nikki joining me. A stellar group of food lovers all set to cook. We congregated almost immediately around a table my team had kitted out in Christmas finery. We were already high on life (the kind of high only life, not alcohol can give) and rosemary scented lemonade by the time Ajay 'foodie Santa" Chopra arrived bearing his delicious gifts!

Introductions happened and Ajay shared a few things about the Christmas boxes before we got down to cooking. Burgundy Box meal kits usually contain the ingredients and recipes for restaurant style dishes that are prepped and ready to cook in 20 minutes. However, Ajay shared this Christmas box would be a little more time consuming than their usual offerings with both the Chicken and the pudding requiring long cooking. But hey, I was ok with that, after all, for all the things you can speed up, slow cooking of the roast chicken kind cannot be hurried!

What Burgundy box HAS done, is that they have taken most of the shopping and prep work out of the equation. Your time is only invested in mixing pre-measured ingredients together and putting the whole thing in to bake. I could already imagine doing the Roast meal over at home with my family and make a special cooking date out of it. The kids would enjoy helping. And then as the oven did its work (and my kids hovered over it), Id light some aromatic candles, the husband would play Christmas carols while I freshened up, arriving back into the kitchen in the last 10 minutes to elegantly toss up the trimmings and serve up a delicious meal!

Oops! I was off day dreaming! Cut to present, where my teammate Nikki and I were prepping the pudding. We finished it and put it in the oven. Ajay then showed us how to massage and truss our chicken amidst much silly conversation about prudish chickens that needed proper massages and didn't like being tied up (that last gem was from yours truly! Told you I was high on life!) Anyways soon the puddings were gently baking in one oven while the chickens roasted in another and we were back at the table digging into fresh bread, dips and a lovely chickpea soup our team had made. Much animated discussions on the Christmas box, roasting chicken, olive oil, cooking together ensued. With silence reigning and furious photography of the food porn kind,  happening every time Chef Ajay opened the oven to baste the chickens. 

Soon the beautiful golden brown roast chickens were out, and getting photographed like the stars they were as we revelled in the achievement we had unlocked. Successfully creating a whole roast chicken meal!

I love the spirit of festivals, any festival. And for me Festivals are all about getting together with friends and family and lots of good food! Christmas came early to APB Cook Studio thanks to Ajay and Burgundy Box. And I have been high on that  Christmassy feeling ever since.

Gyaan and links
The Christmas Special Festive Meal Kit combo pack is available on Burgundy Box at Rs. 1350/- from the 15th Dec till the end of the season, so go order it and thank me later!

Also FYI for every box sold Burgundy Box will donate Rs. 100 will towards a special treat for children of an orphanage run in collaboration with the Avatar Church, Bandra.

Have a look at the video we shot of the cook-up below. 

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