This post is less a recipe as it is a brief guide to how to make some wonderful roasts and some different ways to get creative with your oven.
Many people shy away from roasts and prefer to fry things just because it is quicker and easier. But, in all honesty, making a roast is surprisingly easy and there are so many variations that can be made for just one simple dish. The real trick of a roast is basting the roast every 30 or so minutes for about 5+ minutes. This means that you don’t just take it out of the oven, throw a few spoonfuls of juice on it and throw it back in again. No. You need to spend about 5+ minutes pouring juice on it so that it will not burn and the juices seep all the way into the meat. My dad insists that a truly good roast must be cooked at least 3 hours, but of course they are better the slower cooked they are. Plus, if you can marinate it in its sauce overnight, even better!
In spite of my dad’s recommended cooking time, we have cooked roasts for only 2 hours and they have tasted outrageously delicious. I think the longer you are able to cook something the better, in most any case, but so long as the meat is cooked all the way through then you are okay to eat it. You also need to get to know your oven and figure out the best temperatures to roast meats. If your oven has an above and below setting, roasts generally work better heated from below as the top can tend to get burned if the oven is very small. Be patient and just try things out. They may not work out perfectly in the beginning, but as you get to know how your oven cooks roasts, it will become easier to make wonderful roasts.
A super-easy sauce you can make for a whole chicken roast involves tahini (sesame seed paste), honey, and mustard. Mix the three together and generously coat your chicken with it, making a really tasty and juicy coating for your meat. Plus the tahini makes a seal around the meat that traps in the juices better than other sauces so it doesn’t get overly dry.
Soy sauce is a wonderful marinade for red meats and if you add chili powder or other spices along with diced onions and garlic, the soy sauce begins to cook the meat before it even goes in the oven and turns out particularly tender. Pineapple juice and lemon juice also make incredible additions to marinades as their acidity tenderises the meat along with adding flavour. Using pineapple juice and red chili powder make a delicious sauce/marinade.
The trick is to get creative! You can use seasonings, coconut milk, fruit juices, just about anything as a sauce for your roast. Try different things and see how they turn out!
Stuffing does not have to be the traditional breadcrumb type of stuffing we think of for our Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. If you are making a whole chicken roast, there is a world of wonderful stuffing that can be used to enhance the meal. For example, you can stuff the chicken with whole bulbs of peeled garlic, raisins, and nuts, maybe added with a bit of rice. You can stuff the chicken with different vegetables like carrots, squash, onion, garlic, or combinations of those. You can also fry potatoes and sausages and stuff the chicken with them (an adaptation of a traditional Lithuanian recipe!) too. Basically, whatever you stuff the chicken with will enhance its flavours and make for a thicker basting sauce.
If you are making a lamb or beef roast, you can make a slit in the middle of the meat and stuff it full of any of the above ingredients and wrap it all up again before you will roast it. You can also make small slits on the surface of the meat and stuff cloves of garlic inside or spice concoctions of your choice. There are also various meat rubs that can be made where you crush a variety of spices with garlic and onions and rub them into the skin of the meat then let them marinate for a few hours or overnight before you cook the meat.
3) Vegetable Beds
Something else that we do when making a roast is making a bed of vegetables for the roast to cook upon. Sometimes we use carrots, onions, green chilies, and summer squash, but you could use just anything really. The vegetables cook along with the chicken and in the chicken’s juices so in the end they are incredibly tasty and flavourful. Use your favorite vegetables and layer the bottom of your dish with them. I find that using a glass casserole dish is the best for roasting as it traps the juices, while a baking pan may disperse the juices making them evaporate sooner.
4) Get Creative!
The thing I cannot stress enough is getting creative in the kitchen. Begin with the spices and vegetables you know you like, but then begin to experiment with different combinations and try things you see all the time in the grocery store but have no idea how they will turn out. This way you will get to know how different things react in different situations. Something may taste great with chicken, but not so good with beef. The only way to find out is to experiment and have fun with it. It is really difficult to make a mistake here, because if thoroughly cooked, the roast will taste good regardless, and the addition of your favourites will ensure there are enough familiar flavours for you to enjoy and this way your meals are not only nutritious, but something of an adventure too!