Dressing up rotisserie chickens

One author explores how shoppers can put finishing touches on the popular HMR product

With rotisserie chickens now commonly available at so many grocery stores, cookbook author Eric Akis sensed the convenient take-out meals were becoming hugely popular.

He figured he could write a whole book on ways to dress up pre-cooked rotisserie chickens, or make them from scratch.

"Whenever I'm in a farmers' market where there's a truck selling them, people are lined up to buy it. Or whenever I'm in the supermarket around 5 o'clock, there's none left because people have bought them,'' says Akis, author of "The Great Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook'' (Appetite by Random House), which was published this week.

"They still want to prepare the meal, but this is one thing they can get and they can build the meal around.''

While the nutritious protein can be eaten as-is, it can also be cut up and added to recipes for sides, soups, salads and entrees.

The author of seven other cookbooks, including the "Everyone Can Cook'' series, Akis works at home testing recipes for his books and columns for the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper.

At the end of a long day he'll frequently pick up a rotisserie chicken to use in his family's evening meal.

"My own affair with rotisserie chicken started back in my chef days and the first hotel I apprenticed in we had a rotisserie spit right in the dining room. So that's where I fell in love with it,'' says Akis, a trained chef and pastry chef, during an interview from his home in Victoria.

"Then I moved to Toronto and the Portuguese neighbourhoods there _ there's different stores that sell rotisserie chicken _ sent my flavours into hyper drive. And then whenever I travelled I noticed that rotisserie chicken was there.''

For keeners who want to spin their own chicken over the grill, Akis offers tips along with 10 recipes for flavouring, inspired by his international travels.

Portuguese piri piri chicken has a kick with chilies, lemon and garlic. Red Thai curry marinade with curry paste, citrus juices, soy sauce and ginger is a riff on something he tried in Singapore. There's a Chinese-style flavouring recipe and one for a beautiful red tandoori-style chicken.

Don't overlook the importance of properly trussing the chicken before cooking, he says.

"If you just slid it on the spit the wings would flop around, and tying it helps to evenly cook the chicken,'' Akis explains. It takes practice, so he includes step-by-step photos to help.

Also key for the home cook is knowing when the chicken is cooked. Use an instant-read thermometer, but avoid the bones when inserting it to get an accurate reading.

He tested the recipes on a gas barbecue and a tabletop rotisserie oven.

"If you don't have a rotisserie you can actually still flavour it the way it's described in the recipe and cook it in your regular oven. It won't have that exact same lovely flavour, but it will still be good.''

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