I’m in the midst of a food fling. I’ve been making roast chicken for years, usually on top of carrots, onions, and potatoes; occasionally, I’ll throw in an apple or two. The cavity gets stuffed with lemons and butter and herbs are slipped under the skin. It’s an open-and-shut case of classic roast chicken.
It’s comforting. Consistent. Like the girl next door. And then, in walks the girl (read: chicken) from Ipanema. Bronzed, exotic, and as alluring as any bird could possibly be. (I want so desperately to throw in tall, tan, young, and lovely but such descriptors just don’t fit for poultry, try as I might.) Anyways, when you eat it, it’s like a samba.
Don’t get me wrong, traditional Sunday-style roast chicken is wonderful. It’s just that I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut and so a simple roast chicken would simply not do. Yet, with this trade comes certain risk.
It’s a much flightier bird. The tamarind glaze could easily become too thick and sweet too fast on the stovetop. The heat of the serrano pepper could really sting. But the tamarind paste and resulting glaze that follows is worth the risk. It adds a haunting, soul-satisfying depth.
Tamarind itself has a special lure all its own. The paste is deep—almost black—garnet in color. It’s slightly sour, without being bracing; its fruit hails from a tree in the tropics. And it’s rumored to be given to elephants to make them wise. This quirkiness, coupled with its exotic appeal, tugs at my heartstrings.
And it was likely the magic behind the best roast chicken I’ve ever made. It almost feels like cheating. So I’m shacking up with a saucy new chick for now. People may talk. But the tamarind speaks louder.