Chicken with a bold attitude Entertaining: Fusion recipes by California couple give chicken flavorful allure.

June 05, 1996|By Deborah S. Hartz | Deborah S. Hartz,FORT LAUDERDALE SUN-SENTINEL

Life for Hugh Carpenter and his wife, Teri Sandison, is hot right now. They are in their Napa Valley, Calif., kitchen working on their new series of "hot" cookbooks.

"Hot Wok" and "Hot Chicken" (both by 10 Speed, 1995, $17.95) are already on the market. And soon they will add barbecue, pasta and vegetables to this line of hot topics.

In their latest book, "Hot Chicken," you'll find recipes perfect for entertaining.

"They are so boldly flavored you won't have people going away thinking you served chicken because it's inexpensive," Carpenter says. "They'll know you served it because it's good."

In these books, self-trained chef and cooking teacher Carpenter takes a single ingredient or cooking technique and provides preparation tips and recipes.

Sandison does the books' color food photography at their home. She gathers plates from artists throughout California and uses the dishes to dress up the photos.

Carpenter is known for his fusion cooking, which is evident in many of his recipes.

Fusion cooking involves "foods that integrate seasonings and cooking techniques from different cooking traditions," Carpenter explains.

In "Hot Chicken," fusion cooking translates to recipes such as East-West grilled teriyaki chicken, featuring mushrooms and tomatoes as well as soy sauce, mirin (sweet Japanese wine) and sake, or pan-fried chicken with Asian-Cajun sauce.

To be sure these recipes tempt readers, Carpenter has set up a panel of 40 volunteer recipe evaluators from across the country. These are home cooks Carpenter has met through his classes.

He sends each person two recipes, directs them to prepare the recipes as written and seeks comments on the recipes' practicality and clarity. He then asks: "most important of

all, would they make them again?"

two or more people answer "no" about the same recipe, it is reworked or scrapped, Carpenter says.

We had only one problem with his people-evaluated recipes: cooking times. They seem too short -- an important consideration when preparing chicken that can easily be contaminated with salmonella bacteria, which is killed by heat.

The difference in cooking times may be because Carpenter tests his recipes on a Viking range that provides higher heat than most home stoves. As such, we have modified the recipes given here so that they have what we consider to be more accurate (and safe) cooking times.

In his favor, however, Carpenter not only gives cooking times but also specifies signs of doneness. To show when a chicken is cooked, he provides specific temperatures to look for on an instant-read thermometer and notes that a cooked bird's juices run clear when the flesh is deeply pierced.

Although the ingredients in each recipe may look like they make up a long list, Sandison says you shouldn't be put off from using them for your next party.

Instead, make the chicken dish the highlight of your meal and round it out with items you purchase or old standbys, she says. Carpenter adds that when they entertain, the couple makes use of the local pastry shop, deli and charcuterie.

Another entertaining option is to make the main dish chicken and ask friends to bring the accompaniments.

When you entertain, do not do a menu-of-the-month extravaganza, Carpenter says. Cooking for friends should be stress-free.

"Cooking is not a science. This is not a course in engineering. Cooking is always full of surprises, so don't take them too seriously," he says. "If you make a mistake, don't browbeat yourself. It's just cooking; enjoy it."

barbecued chicken

Makes 4 to 8 servings

2 frying chickens, rinsed and split

1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce

zest of 1 lime, finely minced

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

8 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1/3 cup fine-minced scallions with green parts

Working with one chicken half at a time, loosen a small area of the skin along the top of the breast. Gently push your index finger under the skin, moving it along the breast, thigh and drumstick, being careful not to dislodge the skin attached to the backbone. Repeat with the remaining chicken halves.

In a small nonreactive bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of this marinade under the skin of one chicken half and, with your fingers, massage the outside of the skin to distribute the marinade over the breast, thigh and drumstick. Repeat with remaining chicken halves. Rub remaining marinade over chicken. Place in a single layer in a nonreactive baking dish, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes but no longer than 8 hours.

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