There are very few cooking pots that stand out in a crowd for their innovative design and practical supremacy. There are perfect pieces of pottery, and classic pieces of cookware. It is rare to find a wonderful combination of the two.
Enter the Chicken Brick.
This beautiful piece of culinary design was created by David Queensbury for Habitat 50 years ago, and as far as I’m concerned, is one of their most successful pieces in their short, but colourful history. It is one of my favourite cooking pots. Or to be more precise, terracotta cooking pots.
And here’s how it works. The pot acts as a culinary kiln, and because it is terracotta and therefore porous, it allows the heat to drift through it very nicely so that the chicken and its accompanying orchestra of vegetables, cook away in their own juices, thus creating a perfectly succulent bird every time. And if you’re worried that the chicken may look a little anaemic having had no direct heat onto it’s skin, don’t. It manages to come out with a very healthy tan.
I always tend to put onions and carrots as a cushion for the chicken to sit on top sprinkled with salt and pepper, but to be honest, it is just as delicious without added vegetables, and it is absolutely up to you what you pop in there. I add a little boiled water into the base before putting in the oven, to make sure I don’t have a minor panic attack as to whether there will be enough gravy or not. You can never have enough gravy in my book. Anyway. I then put the brick on the shelf nearest the middle of a pre heated oven. Gas mark 5. There is a rule of minutes per weight for every meat, but as with everything oven based in my home, I have to adjust according to the outside influences. Therefore, I tend to just use a thermometer.
So why is this so fabulous then eh? Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, the chicken always tastes succulent and gorgeous which is a bonus as chicken, although texturally satisfying, is quite a bland meat if it doesn’t have a great support act. I find that the sweetness of the carrots and onions imbibe the chicken enough to add flavour, but without overpowering it. As a slight diversion, I have found that this combination makes beef, cooked in the chicken brick, taste wonderful as well. Secondly, the stock that I use for the gravy has a taste that I find hard to replicate through any other formula, and finally the pot itself has a quirk and style to it that is unbeatable. If you like that kind of thing. Which I do.
There are a couple of very, very minor downsides to the Chicken Brick. The first one is that it takes up quite a bit of space if you don’t have other pots or dishes of the same shape. Luckily I do. But if you didn’t, you would probably have to either buy some oval dishes, or accept the fact that the brick needs it’s own space. And secondly, it doesn’t take kindly to letting go of washing up liquid, so wash wisely. But hey, these are blips on an otherwise perfect piece of innovative culinary design.
And so to dinner. As it’s Sunday, I am opting for a traditional Sunday affair. Chicken, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, and steamed mini sweetcorn, long stemmed broccoli, sugar snap peas and mange tout, all covered in gravy. Delicious.
As a final thought, if you like the idea of using a Chicken Brick but are a little concerned about spending money on something you feel you may regret, why not find someone who owns one and ask to borrow it?
Mine will be free from this evening, if anyone’s interested.