Homer Alaska - Cooking

Story last updated at 8:48 PM on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Music is food for the soul

Since we visited last, the Other Fisherman and I traveled up to Anchorage and attended the Duke Ellington orchestra concert. It was more than incredible. It was so enjoyable, classy, rich, big and true. I've been a fan of this era in music forever. Friends of ours enjoyed it so much, they went to another concert the following day. I can't say I wouldn't have done the same had I lived in Anchorage. To be there in person and experience these musicians and the Duke's masterworks was a feast for the senses. The performing arts center stage with its acoustics, the music, the instruments, the musicians. It all came together and they just sounded so good.


Closer to Homer, we were entertained by the Air Force Band of the Pacific's "Top Cover" recently. You missed some great talent if you weren't there with us tapping your toes, clapping and singing along with this energetic jazz group that treated our community to an evening of lively entertainment.

The world of music is as varied and as wide as the imagination. This is true of all expressions of art though, not just music. I consider cooking well an art. It's an expression of not only love, but creativity, the coming together of many integral parts to make a whole. Just like a song. Just as there are in music, there are many different types and styles of cooking. Ethnicity, different spices, varied preparations. There are so many different ways to prepare a feast of the senses to be served from a plate. When you find yourself getting bored with your menu, consult a cookbook for a new and exciting recipe to try.

While visiting in Anchorage, we stayed with our son Rob, who has quite a sizeable collection of ethnic cookbooks. The African volumes called out to me with their exotic recipes containing fragrant toasted spices, unique ingredients and preparations. I have the perfect excuse to try out a recipe this week, as a friend of mine is moving to West Africa and I am treating her and her special friends to an evening of appetizers.

Here is a recipe from "A Kitchen Safari" borrowed from my fellow artist-chef friend, Amy. The book cover describes it as a compilation of recipes from private game reserves in Africa that contain the heart, soul and very essence of their passion for taking care of their guests and for all things African, not the least being their way of cooking °©— Pan-African cuisine.

Beer can chicken is a favorite preparation of mine for a moist, spicy and flavorful whole chicken. This recipe from Phinda Private Game Reserve called Can Can Chicken blows my basic spice mixture right out of the kitchen. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, take it on!

Dukkah Spice Blend

8 ounces raw hazelnuts

4.4 ounces dry chickpeas

1.7 ounces coriander seeds

1.7 ounces cumin seed

2.6 ounces sesame seeds

3.5 ounces kosher salt

10 black peppercorns, coarsely ground

1 ounce dried mint leaves, crushed

In a heavy pan, roast the hazelnuts, and while still hot, rub off the skins. With a large knife, chop until almost fine. Set aside. In the same pan, roast the chickpeas, coriander, cumin and sesame seeds until lightly golden.

Grind in a blender until fine. Mix with chopped hazelnuts, add salt, black pepper and mint leaves and set aside. Store at room temperature — keeps for several weeks. This exotic blend of spices compliments more things than the chicken recipe below. Let your imagination be your guide.

Can Can Chicks</p>

Serves 8

This preparation is for the chickens to be roasted in the oven. I am a barbecue fan, so that's where I cook mine. Either way, this is pretty tasty poultry.

4 whole chickens

¼ cup sea salt

Ground black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

4 cans of beer – pick your favorite

4 bay leaves

4 cinnamon sticks

4 teaspoons coriander seeds

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

4 red chilies

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard (divided to smear on the 4 chickens)

4 teaspoons Dukkah spice blend (divided to rub on the 4 chickens

Season chickens with salt and pepper and olive oil.

Open one can of beer for each chicken and drink a mouthful out of each (or toss out equivalent) and divide bay leaves, cinnamon, coriander, chilies and cumin between the four cans.

Place the cans on a baking tray and "sit" a chicken firmly on each can of spice-infused beer.

Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and carefully rub each chicken with some of the Dijon mustard and Dukkah Spice Blend.

Cook for an additional 25 minutes at 325 degrees.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

To serve, split chicken in half, pile on a platter and sprinkle with more Dukkah Spice.

By the way, I can't ever cook without music.

Until next time, feed your senses with some good food and music and let the good times roll! Crank up the tunes, don an apron and dance around the kitchen while making a new recipe.