The Quest for Crispiness

There are an infinite number of chicken recipes that are only improved by solar cooking but obtaining crispy skin is a challenge. A challenge I’m still working on. The moist environment and relatively low temperature of the Sun Oven’s cooking chamber lends itself better to slow braising. Not the best cooking method if you want some crunch to your chicken.

After hearing about a new way to prep chicken, or other meats, for roasting on Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s radio show “The Splendid Table” this weekend I had to give it a try. Her  guest, Molly Stevens, described a simple method of seasoning the meat with kosher salt and letting it mature in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to (I believe) two days.

With sunny days in the forecast for the rest of the week I got a batch going Tuesday evening. All you have to do is season the chicken with kosher salt, about 1/2 teaspoon per pound. Place it in a baking dish and refrigerate it, uncovered over night or longer. To cook it I let it come to room temperature before putting it on a rack in a baking dish. Then I covered the dish with tin foil and a dark tea towel and put it in a preheated Sun Oven.

After an hour I took a peek. It didn’t look quite done and the skin was still a pale yellow. At this point I decided to let it cook uncovered hoping the skin would brown more. After another 20 minutes in the Sun Oven the result was meat that was moist and delicious and skin that wasn’t soggy but wasn’t exactly crisp either. I think I should have resisted the temptation to uncover the dish. I’ll try it again; hopefully next week’s forecast will be favorable to starting a dish so far in advance. That’s always a risk for the solar chef.

Mediterranean Solar Braised Chicken

When using the Sun Oven, you can never have too many chicken recipes.

This one is good served over rice or with a crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Sun Oven Braised French Basil Chicken


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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Asian Style Chicken Noodle Soup

This Vietnamese style chicken soup is a meal in a bowl. Serve it with garnishes on the side for each person to add in the amount and combination they want. Hot sauce and hoisin sauce can also be offered.

Sun Oven Chicken Pho


1 pound chicken thighs, skinned

6 fresh cilantro sprigs

3 scallions, white and green parts separated

2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed and unpeeled

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 star anise

8 cups chicken broth

salt to taste

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Let the Sun Oven Do Most of the Work

A simple mixture of rosemary, garlic, and sunshine is enough to make roast chicken that’s always a crowd pleaser.

Solar Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary


3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

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Hearty Winter Solar Soup

This autumn-colored soup is perfect on a cold winter’s night. Cook the base in the Sun Oven then gently reheat it at dinner time adding the final touches as it simmers on the stove. You’ll need a large 5 to 6 quart pot and will most likely have to remove the leveling tray to fit it in the cooking chamber. Chicken breast can be used in place of the thighs, but I prefer the flavor and texture of the latter.

Sun Oven Curried Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup


4 cups chicken broth

1 can (13 1/2 ounces) coconut milk

2 tablespoons mild curry powder

4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds) skin and visible fat removed

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

4 green onions, thinly sliced (keep green and white parts separate)

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Chicken Masala Made Easy

This simple chicken dish has to marinate at least 2 hours. Unless you don’t mind chopping garlic and cutting up chicken before breakfast it’s probably best to marinate it overnight. Garam masala is an Indian spice mixture that can be found in many supermarkets and at all Indian markets.

No Fuss Sun Oven Chicken Masala


1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon garam masala

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (4 to 4 1/2 pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, backbone removed

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Solar “Fried” Chicken


I’ll admit, this is a recipe that still needs a little tweaking. The goal was, of course, a crispy coating without all the calories of fried chicken. That was partially achieved, at least the bit of coating that didn’t come off when I took the chicken legs off the rack was slightly crispy. I’d make two changes next time: I’d leave the skin on and I’d cook it uncovered.

Sun Oven “Fried” Chicken Legs


1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon hot sauce

8 chicken legs, skin removed

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

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Solar Tandoori Chicken in a Bag

This month’s issue of Bon Appétit magazine has four turkey recipes that look really good. Of course four whole turkeys are about three and a half more than the two of us consume in a year so I’ve made some compromises. Last week, when I made the Asian spice inspired cider-brined turkey, I cut back on the ingredients and used turkey thighs. This week I wanted to take a stab at the recipe for Tandoori turkey, but after a closer inspection of the ingredient list, which included at least 14 different spices that needed to be toasted and then ground, I opted to wing it with the Garam Masala powder I had in the spice drawer. Besides, it was mostly the technique of marinating the bird in an oven bag and using the same bag, marinade and all, to roast it in, that intrigued me. This time I used a whole chicken and a lot of improvising.

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Parsnips Are Optional

For some unknown reason I really want to like parsnips. I’m always amazed that they seem to be in every produce section of  every grocery store despite the fact that nobody I know has ever mentioned eating them, I’ve never been to a dinner party where they have made an appearance, and I’ve only on rare occasions seen them on restaurant menus. Despite of all that every few months or so I come across a recipe that calls for them and I think to myself, “That sounds good. Maybe I should give parsnips another chance.” Then, when I take the first bite of the new concoction I usually think, “This would be better without the parsnips.” Today’s recipe is no exception. I got it from “Glorious One-Pot Meals” by Elizabeth Yarnell. The recipes are for a Dutch oven and can easily be adapted for solar cooking. If you like parsnips go ahead and include them, I’m going to say they’re optional. Placing the vegetables on top of the chicken, however, is a must; it keeps them from turning into mush.

Solar Braised Chicken and Root Vegetables


1 orange

1 lemon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

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Solar Chicken Stew

The sun came out today and it looks like it’s here to stay for a while. I took advantage of the beautiful day to make a big batch of chicken that should be enough for a few meals. It depends how hungry Mark is when he gets home; he forgot to take his lunch today.

This recipe is a variation of one of our favorites – Solar Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives – and can be served with rice, couscous, or a good crusty bread. Now that the days are getting shorter it’s probably best to cook the beans a day ahead or used canned. I have to confess that I cheated and cooked mine in my pressure cooker early this morning so I could get the chicken in the Sun Oven as soon as possible.

Solar Braised Chicken with Butternut Squash and White Beans


1 cup dried white beans (Great Northern, cannellini, or mayacoba) previously cooked and drained.

1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

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