A poultry dish loaded with flavour
Yes, we eat rooster. And you know what? We think you should to! Although we recognize that rooster might seem to be an odd choice of poultry for many of you, we really want to convince you that in fact, it makes perfect sense.
But first, a little bird biology. If you are thinking to yourself, “Yeah, thanks Mia Kouppa… but no thanks…I’ll stick to eating chicken”, guess what? Rooster IS chicken. That’s right. You see, what you (and we), usually refer to as chicken is in fact hen; the female version of chicken that is most commonly found in grocery stores and markets. Roosters are male chickens.
So, roosters are chickens (don’t they seem more acceptable as dinner now?). Besides the gender difference, there are other differences between roosters and hens. Roosters tend to be larger than hens and have more protein and less fat. Some say that the taste between the two is almost indiscernable; we find however that rooster has a bit of a gamier taste although this could be because our parents purchase rooster from a farm where roosters roam free.
Rooster might not be the easiest poultry for you to find in your grocery store. If you have difficulty finding rooster for purchase, you could check your local farmer’s market or specialty butcher shops. If you do purchase your rooster from a butcher shop, ask your butcher to cut it into serving pieces for you.
Asides from the rooster, the other key (and perhaps eyebrow-raising) ingredient here is okra. One of the most common reasons that people site for hating okra is the slime factor. Okra are actually pods with a somewhat fuzzy exterior; on the inside you will find small seeds and a mucilaginous juice (that’s a polite way of saying slime). Doesn’t that description make you want to stop reading this post and run out to buy some okra!? Although potentially gross, this slime actually serves a purpose. It acts as a wonderful thickening agent, which is why okra are so popular in Caribbean stews and gumbos and in Indian curries. But this is a Greek cooking blog, and the last time we checked, there aren’t too many yiayia’s (γιαγιας) cooking these types of meals in their kitchen.
Okra is a plant that loves the heat and grows especially well in warm climates. It is used widely in Indian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and American southern cooking, and of course, in Greek cooking. It is packed with fiber, vitamin C and folate, making this unique vegetable one which you should try to learn and love. And if you’re worried about the slime, have no fear; this recipe, like our previously posted recipe of okra with cauliflower, is pretty much, slime-free!
Before you do anything with your okra, you have to prepare them. To do so you need to cut off any tough areas, including the very tip and the stem. Regarding the tip, you really only want to cut off the very end; any area that is brown. This should not be a big piece at all. The stem end is a little more tricky because the natural shape of okra is that the stem portion is coned. As such, you need to keep your knife at an angle as you carefully move it around the okra, cutting off what you don’t want, but being careful not to expose the inner seeds. Don’t worry if you mess up a few; remember that perfection is an unattainable state and use them anyways.
Because we live in Canada, and fresh okra are not readily available when the snow reaches your knees and the temperatures fall to beyond freezing, our parents like to freeze okra for the harsh winter months. They essentially prepare them as described in the recipe, and freeze them in air tight freezer bags after the roasting step. In fact, when we made this recipe with them they simply defrosted okra that they had in their freezer and added them to the roasting pan.
Stewed rooster with okra and potatoes
For the rooster:
- 1 rooster, approx. 4 lbs, cut into 8 serving pieces
- 1 tbsp salt
- juice of 1 lemon
For the okra:
- 1 ¼ lb fresh or frozen okra
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the potatoes:
- 6 medium sized yellow fleshed potatoes
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- vegetable oil for frying
For the assembly:
- 2 cups tomato sauce or passata
- 1 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Prepare your rooster by removing any excess skin and fat. Place the rooster in a large bowl and squeeze fresh lemon juice over all of the pieces. Set aside.
- If you are using fresh okra: Prepare your okra by cutting off the tip and the top part where the stem is. You must do this carefully in order not to expose the inner seeds. When cutting off the stem, keep your knife at an angle; do not cut straight across. (You can refer to the pictures above to help guide you, as well as the helpful hints).
- Wash your okra twice with clean running water. Then, place your okra in a bowl, cover them with water and add the red wine vinegar. Stir them around and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain your okra (do not rinse them) and lay them in a single layer on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.
- Place the okra in the bottom rack of your oven and roast for 15 minutes. Set aside.
- If you're using frozen okra: Place the okra in the bottom rack of your oven and roast for 15 minutes. Set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut your potatoes into wedges and toss with 1/2 tablespoon salt. Heat enough vegetable oil in a frying pan so that it is 1 inch deep. Fry your potatoes until just golden brown on all sides. Drain on a paper towel lined plate to remove any excess oil.
- After your potatoes are fried, it is time to fry the rooster. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt all over the rooster pieces and add them to the same oil you just used to fry the potatoes. Cook the rooster until it is golden browned on all sides (it will not be cooked through).
- When all of the rooster has been fried, it is time to prepare your meal for cooking in the oven. Take a large roasting pan and add the rooster, the potatoes and the okra. Pour in the tomato sauce, olive oil, and water. The liquid should come up about halfway in your pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon and pepper all over the dish. Sprinkle the paprika only over the potatoes.
- Bake your meal in the lower rack of your oven, uncovered for approximately 50 – 60 minutes, until the rooster is fully cooked and the potatoes are soft.