Remember the Telephone Game from when we were kids? The one where a bunch of people sit in a circle, and one person starts by whispering a message into the ear of their neighbor, and that person turns and whispers (what is supposed to be) the same message into their neighbor’s ear, and so on and so forth until the message comes back around to the first person? And, inevitably, the message has become something completely different from what it started out as?
Well, this is that game, only in food blog form. Like a bunch of us are standing in a globe-spanning circle connected by the interwebs, and we’re passing a roast chicken recipe from blog to blog, waiting to see how it changes and evolves as each person puts their own spin on it.
Which is, if you really think about it, what makes food writing/blogging so interesting and, dare I say it, controversial. There are countless arguments back and forth over what constitutes an “original” recipe, what constitutes plagiarism in recipes, and what can and cannot be copyrighted when it comes to recipes.
Diane Jacob, in a March 17, 2010 post on her Will Write for Food blog, writes that “it’s not … legal to copy a recipe verbatim and give credit, unless you have permission from the publisher, let alone change a few things but not enough and not give credit.” And yet, time and again, you see people copying recipes out of cookbooks and publishing them on their blogs (with or without credit), blind to the fact that they are breaking any rules, let alone being deviant enough to actually break a law. Intellectual property is a complicated and mysterious thing. I’ve even done it myself, before I knew what the rules actually were.
Even more complicated is what constitutes “adapting” a recipe. The generally accepted standard is that if you change three things in a recipe, then you can call it yours. This has proven to be a gray area for some folks, though. I think it’s always a good idea to credit the original source, just to be on the safe side. David Lebovitz gives some great tips on recipe attribution in a 2009 post on the Food Blog Alliance site.
All of that being said, it’s rare that I follow a recipe word for word. One of my favorite things about cooking is that I can be creative – not constrained by exact measurements and specific ingredients. I see recipes more as guidelines than as hard and fast rules. We all know that rules are made to be broken anyway, right?
The originator of this roast chicken telephone message was Sheri Castle, a potential food blogger who received a recipe to adapt from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (with their permission, I’m assuming). Sheri created a blog just for this recipe, admitting that she’s “not a blogger,” just “blog-curious.” Her plan was to attend the 3rd Annual FoodBlogSouth conference in Birmingham in January to learn more about the craft. She, like myself and at least 13 other participants, signed up for this recipe telephone game, the results of which will be used in a session at the conference conducted by Cynthia Graubart. Sheri’s interpretation of the original recipe can be found here. I guess in this instance, the goal of the game is to change the message as much as possible, rather than the other way around. Below is my version of Sheri’s version – 2 degrees of Roast Chicken, so to speak.
Roasted Garlic Ginger Chicken with Brussels Sprouts
Oven-roasted chicken is the perfect canvas for being creative in the kitchen. There are so many roasting techniques, flavor combinations and accompanying vegetables, the possibilities are nearly endless. For many years I feared the roast chicken, having never found a technique that suited my last-minute lifestyle. In my effort to get dinner on the table for my family on a busy weeknight, I would sometimes end up with underdone birds. More often than not, though, I’d pull them from the oven dry and flavorless.
Recently I discovered the cast-iron cooking method, and my life has never been the same. There’s just something about preheating that cast-iron skillet – getting it good and smoking hot – that really enhances the flavor of the bird and speeds the cooking process along.
This time around, I decided to add some Asian flavors to the mix. Garlic and ginger combine with scallions, oranges and soy sauce to create a sweet-salty flavor combination. The marinated chicken nests atop a bed of Brussels sprouts, infusing the tiny cabbages with it’s savory juices. The chicken comes out with golden crispy skin, and the sprouts are tender and caramelized, bursting with deep umami flavor.
Prep time: 1-24 hours
Cook time: 45 minutes – 1 hour
- 1 3-4 lb. roasting chicken
- 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil (I used grapeseed)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
- zest from 2 oranges
- 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 5 scallions, green parts only, chopped
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 1 Tablespoon neutral cooking oil (again, I used grapeseed)
Begin by patting the chicken dry with paper towels and removing any extra parts (like the neck, heart and gizzards) that might be in the cavity. Place the chicken in a zip-top bag. Combine the 1/4 cup oil, soy sauce, orange juice, zest, ginger, garlic, scallions and black pepper and pour into the bag, evenly coating the chicken. Zip the bag closed, squeezing out as much air as possible as you go. Massage the chicken a bit, making an effort to get the marinade all over the bird. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but up to 24 hours (the longer the better, really).
About 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook the chicken, place a large iron skillet on the lowest rack in your oven and preheat the oven to 425F. Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator. Toss the halved Brussels sprouts with 1 Tablespoon of oil. Once the oven has preheated, and the skillet is hot, remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface. Pour the Brussels sprouts into the hot pan and spread them evenly across the bottom. Remove the chicken from the bag, scraping the excess marinade off as you do. Place the chicken, breast side up, atop the sprouts and return the pan to the oven. Roast for 45 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165F.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with accompanying Brussels sprouts on a bed of steamed rice. Drizzle with any excess pan juices. Enjoy!