Thanks in part to Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, birds have become synonymous with horror and Halloween. As a subtle nod to Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” a dark army of ravens grace my porch railings throughout the last weeks of October. When the month culminates in an evening of trick-or-treating, I even perch a midnight -hued bird on my hand as I pass out the candy. Although my flock of birds is made up of nothing more than Styrofoam and fake feathers, my Halloween trickery elicits fear in even the bravest of little monsters.
Using birds to bring out the spirit of Halloween has been a commonplace occurrence around my house for years, but it had never dawned on me to use the same concept to bring a frightful scene to the dinner plate....until now.
While I was meandering through an Asian market recently, I came across a bin full of black silkie chickens and in an instant the evil kitchen witch in me was inspired to conjure a wicked dinner spell. Prized for their jet black skin, gamey flavor and medicinal properties, black silkies are not commonly roasted, but I made an exception in the spirit of creating a truly terrifying dish. The frozen bird came with clawed feet intact and I roasted them right along with the body to create a ghastly (and slightly dangerous) garnish for my poultry.
Knowing home cooks can achieve a similarly eerie color effect with an average grocery store chicken and a bit of food dye, I focused on building loads of robust flavor in the chicken marinade and pumpkin-colored side dishes in my Halloween menu. Granny Smith apple and orange marmalade not only offer bold seasonal flavors, but bring the balance of orange and black to the Halloween dinner plate.
My raven-hued chicken is a truly terrifying looking dish and not to be viewed by the faint of heart. And while it is sure to elicit more than a few blood curdling screams from unsuspecting dinner companions, there is nothing fearsome about the flavors in this ghoulish, ghastly and menacing meal.
Raven-hued Chicken with Orange Sauce
While I roasted a unique black silkie chicken in honor of Halloween, a little bit of black paste food coloring can transform a standard supermarket bird into an eerie entree. Wilton brand food colorings offer the best quality and are available at craft stores like Michael’s. (Serves 4-6)
For the Chicken:
1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled
3 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon black paste food coloring
1/2 cup orange juice
Salt and pepper
1 whole chicken, cut into eight parts or assorted
2 tablespoons canola oil
For the Sauce:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1. Combine all the chicken ingredients (except the chicken) in a bowl and whisk to combine. Remove 2-3 tablespoons of the marinade and keep covered in the refrigerator. Toss the chicken with the remaining marinade and coat well. Cover and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.
2. Preheat the oven to 325. Stir the 2 tablespoons of canola oil into the chicken mixture and coat well. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes.
3. Increase the oven temperature to 450 and roast (basting with the reserved marinade) for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, make the sauce by sautéing the onion in the canola oil until softened. Combine with the remaining sauce ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.
5. Serve the chicken with the orange sauce on the side.
All Hallows Eve Squash and Apple Puree
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 medium red onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch pieces
Olive oil, salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock
1/4-1/2 cup orange juice
Pepitas for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the chopped squash, onion and apple on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes or until squash is very tender when pierced with a fork.
2. Transfer the contents of the baking sheet to a medium sauce pan. Add the chicken stock and the curry powder and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth. Add orange juice to thin mixture if needed. The finished puree should have a consistency similar to applesauce.
4. Adjust the seasoning and garnish with the pepitas.