Windshield Chicken

Solar Cookers in Rwanda--saving and changing lives in ways you'd never imagine.

I apologize for the following crap photos. I taped my camera together long enough to shoot this, but it fought me all day so I was trying to just shoot as fast as I could in between total breakdowns and freezes. Soon my little digital will be off to the repair shop. Please wish it a good journey!

Using the Windshield Solar Cooker, I have made Chilaquiles. Yes, I know, I already blogged Bryzanne's Chilaquiles. And if you want to know more about them, just click that link. This entry isn't really about the recipe as much as it's about a remarkable and super-green method of cooking.

Solar cookers are Changing Lives all over the world. In a Refugee Camp in Chad, families often have to sell as much as half their allotted food in order to buy enough firewood to cook the rest of their food. How crazy is that? Firewood and other fuel sources are not readily available in many parts of the world, including Chad. And the danger of fire and/or smoke inhalation is great when all your cooking is done over flame.

Cooking over a fire is fun for a lot of us, but we aren't grilling our steaks in our living rooms and having to breathe in the fumes and smoke. Most of us aren't going hungry because we can't find wood, dried weeds, or dried dung to cook with. With the solar cooker, there is no need for any fuel but the sun. Water can be pasteurized in 30 minutes--this alone makes solar cookers a miracle in some areas. There is no risk of fire with a solar cooker. Solar cookers are even Providing Jobs for people. In Ethiopia "Sun Ovens" are being assembled by Ethiopian staff and in many areas, people (women, especially) have discovered that having enough solar cookers allows them to open small kitchens where people can come purchase food. You can bake in these suckers! Cakes, breads, muffins, puddings, casseroles..... AWESOME!

I made my solar cooker from scratch, I'd have preferred to buy one since Purchasing Them Online raises money to help place solar cookers where they are needed most. But, alas, I'm a bit broke. I spent a total of $7.68 plus 8.25% sales tax for this solar cooker. I already had the roasting bags, the cake rack (which is too small, I need a slightly larger one), the bucket, and the windshield shade. My very small investment was for the pot. Newer solar cookers don't require the roasting bag, but I couldn't find the glass bowl I needed to make myself the new "Hot Pot" solar cooker shown in the "Purchasing Them Online" link.

If you know nothing about solar cooking, then you might think of them as a cordless slow cooker. They can reach up to 350 degrees if they're designed well and if the sun is cooperating. Most of them cook ar0und 250, mas o menos. It just depends on your location, the amount of sun you are getting, and the style of solar cooker you have.

When I bought groceries Thursday night I didn't intend to cook the Chilaquiles in the solar cooker. If I had, I'd have bought some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Instead, I had only whole chickens to deal with. I decided I'd skin and split one for the Chilaquiles. My attempts at splitting chickens are usually rather messy and frustrating. But this one split PERFECTLY. Turns out a partially frozen chicken is really easy to split! I know it's easier to slice raw beef and cut other meats when they are partially frozen, but I didn't think it would make a chicken easier to split. Oh, my, it was easy as pie (or nearly so). Woot! Learned a new trick! Skinning a partially frozen chicken, however, is a pain in the arse and I wish I'd waited for it to defrost just a bit for that. To split this partially frozen chicken, I stabbed the knife straight in and worked my way through it, using the frozen meat itself as leverage to make my cut as I went along. I've never split a chicken so quickly. The bone and cartilage sliced as easy as the meat.

I didn't follow my usual Chilaquiles recipe for today's Windshield Chicken. I wung it. Is that a word? Prolly not. Anywhoo, you don't really use much liquid when you cook in a solar cooker. Not unless you absolutely have to such as when you are cooking rice or beans. In a solar cooker, your food is cooking in it's own juices for hours. Meat and veggies don't tend to need much more liquid, if any, than what they already contain.

First Ingredients for Windshield Chicken:

2 lbs. chopped tomatoes
1 medium chopped onion
Cilantro until it makes you happy
1 TBS sea salt
1 TBS cumin powder
1/4 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. oregano
Juice from one lime
1 heaping tsp. garlic powder (I was too lazy to mince some garlic cloves today)
1 split and skinned chicken (or an equivalent amount of boneless, skinless chicken breast and or thighs--really, the split chicken was a pain to work with, don't do it)
Normally I'd also add an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce but I wanted to see how much liquid the chicken and veggies would create without it and so I added the tomato sauce at the end instead.

I placed the chicken on top of the rest of the ingredients and mashed it down so the lid would fit well. At about 8 a.m. I had the whole thing set up out in the front yard to catch the first morning sun but there were clouds this morning! Clouds? It's been high and dry here for weeks. I loved the cool morning but the one morning I decide I want to cook with the sun and there's clouds? They persisted for a few hours and I had to bring the dish back in while I waited for the sun to come out enough to heat up the oven. Full sun isn't absolutely necessary, but it can't be so cloudy that it blocks the light.

With the sun properly out by 11:00 a.m., the inside of the roasting bag got up to 200 degrees inside of 30 minutes. FABULOUS! What a difference a cloud makes. My solar cooker has a gap in it that allows air in, I didn't have enough velcro tabs to make it all stick together the way it needed to and it really slowed down cooking time. Which is fine with me. I wasn't in any hurry with this experiment today. And even with the gap, it got plenty hot enough to cook a whole chicken!

The Windshield Chicken cooked at 200 degrees for most of the day, but after about five hours hubby and I made a few adjustments that brought the heat almost immediately up to 250. At 6:30 the chicken was done enough for the meat to pull easily away from the bone. I deboned it, shredded the meat, and put it back into the cooker, adding the can of tomato sauce and another 1/2 tsp. of chili powder. It didn't need to cook anymore, per se, I just wanted it to simmer a bit and get happy. I look forward to cooking solar a lot more, we'll get better and better with it and cooking times will decrease.

The second set of ingredients needed for Chilaquiles are fried corn tortilla chips, panela cheese, and Mexican cream a.k.a. crema fresca.

The chilaquiles, with the chicken deboned and shredded and mixed well with the rest of the dish, are served over the fried chips, sprinkled with panela cheese, and crema fresca is drizzled on top. It's delush! Here's my regular recipe for Bryzanne's Chilaquiles, which includes substitutions for crema fresca and panela cheese.

And for no particular reason at all, here are the Scotch Bonnets I bought at the store last night. They've been deseeded and are drying in my dehydrator. Hubby hasn't had time for His Effing Garden this year and so I don't have any home grown, super hot peppers for my pinto beans this summer. I simply must have them. And dried peppers work fabulous in homemade pinto beans. These peppers, once they are dried, will season about ten pots of beans. I should have bought more peppers.



Denise said...

Solar cooker, I could definitely use that here in Florida!


Genie said...

Hi Denise, thanks for stopping by! I poked around your blog for a bit, sadly, I don't drink wine. I do, however, make vinegar! Got any blog entries on that?

Gidge said...

Hey, don't hold out man! What were the "adjustments" you guys made to get that extra 50 degrees? :)

Genie said...

Yo Bro!! Watchoodoin'?

Let's see, we had too small a cake rack in the "funnel" formed by the windshield shade, we put a slightly larger one in--going from a round one that had slid down into the opening of the bucket to a rectangular one that rested a little higher-- so a little bit of light could hit the mylar underneath the cooking pot. The more light reflecting under the pot, the more you heat the pot, but it's not absolutely necessary. The bucket was full of stones, by the way, to keep it from tipping over. Fixing the gap might have raised the temp too: But I was too lazy. I'll have a few more velcro tabs on it next time. Wes also fit a piece of bamboo across the width of the shade to hold it open against the wind and I moved the cooker so that there was a windbreak (a bunch of weeds that Wes calls flowers) behind it.

You gonna solar cook? You'd have to put it out in that field behind the house to get enough light! I think your wonderful yard is too shady.

francesca said...

It's very interesting, I didn't know solar cooker I think that it's really a great and useful idea, it can change the life of many people who lives in country with problems. I enjoyed very much the video,
Thanks for sharing

Genie said...

Thanks Francesca!

Oh, wow, zucchini cream? I'm intrigued!

Karen said...

LOVED chilaquiles! These look great!

Genie said...

Hi Karen, wow, your blog looks divine. I'm far overdue for adding a list of blogs I'm following to Cheap, Fast, and Tasty. I won't wait another minute though and I'm adding you first!

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo
Fresh, cool, delicious.

Anasazi Beans

Anasazi Beans
Dang, that's a pretty bean.

Mom's Beef Enchiladas

Mom's Beef Enchiladas
Except we used ground Axis.

My Solar Cooker

My Solar Cooker
Needs some refinements but it works!