Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Art of Frying Chicken

Nothing beats home made fried chicken. If it's done right. When I was a kid, my mother made gloriously good fried chicken, and when she died no one did chicken in our house much after that. Our new caretaker tried, but her fried chicken was prepared by dipping chicken in an egg and milk wash, and then rolled oats and baked. The skin wasn't crisp, the breading was goopy and reminded me of breakfast. Underneath all that mushy oatmeal was pale and greasy skin. I hated chicken.

Fortunately, getting married and having your own family means a second chance at chicken. My chicken isn't fried. It's baked. But it is as crispy and golden as fried chicken. You might not even be able to tell the difference.

So what has prompted me to write about fried chicken? Ina Garten. I don't own any of her cookbooks, but I may have to get one. Fortunately, she blogs some fine recipes in addition to doing them on her show. Having said that, and reading through her recipe, I think I can do fried chicken much better, without so many processes. Frying and then baking chicken is a time waster. Let's simplify for a better "fried" chicken.

First off, only do thighs and legs. Whenever I roast a whole chicken, no one will ever eat the breast meat. It goes into soup or chicken salad, later. Chicken thighs and legs usually are sold in large sized packs and are three times cheaper than skinless, boneless breasts. For most people these days, price is all that matters.

Wash the chicken and pat dry. Trim any excess skin that hangs over the meat, using kitchen scissors. It is very important to have the skin only covering the top of the chicken since it produces a lot of fat, and when flipping the chicken over half way into the cooking, a good deal of the crust will come off if there is too much fat rendered.

Don't waste that skin, though. Render it. Believe it or not, you will find all kinds of uses for rendered chicken fat. It makes for some very delicious fried potatoes and adds a silky, chicken flavor to home made masa, which tends to be hideously bland. I always freeze freshly rendered schmaltz in mini aluminum loaf pans. It takes about 4 or 5 renderings to fill a pan. Then I remove it, wrap it in wax paper and put it in a freezer bag.  Set aside the cracklings or else eat them in front of your children. But just for household peace of mind, set them aside for adding into the gravy, later.

Here are the ingredients for the marinade and seasoning. Simplicity is the rule here.

First, season your chicken with a Cajun or Louisiana seasoning, which you can find aplenty in the grocery store. Basically, it's a combination of garlic salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Very simple. Season both sides of the chicken liberally and put into a larger bowl. Douse it with a Louisiana hot sauce. Just enough to cover it and make it red. Let that sit, covered on the counter for a half hour.

Dredge the chicken in plain white flour on both sides and set on a cake rack for the crust to harden up, not more than 20 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat a large, shallow baking pan in the oven as it heats to 400 degrees. Once it hits 400, leave it in the oven for about 5 more minutes so that the pan gets screaming hot.

Remove the pan and lightly spray with PAM and immediately place the chicken skin side down, alternating between legs and thighs. Work quickly. Don't crowd the pan. All sides of the chicken pieces need to brown.

Put it into the oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Turn each piece over and bake for another 20 minutes.   Turn oven off and leave for 10 more minutes before removing. The chicken will be as crisp as any fried chicken.

Once the chicken is removed, scrape all the drippings, including any crispy bits from the roasting pan into a heating iron skillet. If you rendered the excess chicken skin, you should have some fine cracklings.

Cooking on medium high, add to the chicken drippings a heaping quarter cup of flour. Stir until the flour has absorbed the drippings. Slowly add  about 2 cups of whole milk or half and half and some fresh black pepper to the flour mixture and stir with a whisk to avoid lumps. Stir in the cracklings just before serving. If the gravy is too thick, add some water to thin it down. Don't scorch the milk. This gravy is delicious on mashed potatoes AND biscuits.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

How To Delete Yourself From the Internet

A good place to start is with a Google search of your name to see if anything unsavory pops up. Remember that Google isn’t your enemy; it’s just the messenger. If you want to remove some embarrassing things you’ve said in a forum — or bad things that have been said about you somewhere — you need to get it removed from the original source.
Well, let’s just see what comes up for Mother Effingby, Jewel Atkins:

Jewel Atkins

Arrest Age : 28 Years Old
Gender : M
Current Age : 32 Years Old
Birth Date : 2-27-1980
Weight : 168 lbs
Eye Color : BRO
Height : 5’05”
Hair Color : BLK
Race : B
Birth Place : FL City : CRESTVIEW, FL
Charge 1
       STATUTE: MURD1000
Charge 2
       STATUTE: ROBB1001
       NOTES: J/BLACK 070908
Charge 3
       STATUTE: MURD1050
Charge 4
       STATUTE: MURD1000
       NOTES: J/BLACK 070908

Clearly, this may prove more difficult than I anticipated.

(Also posted at Mme Scherzo)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Truish Story Told Using Advanced Vocabulary.

Cross-posted at Mme Scherzo

When I was but a wee tomrig of two, I was a consummate gymnosophist, refusing to wear even the drugget my mother fashioned for me as a diaper. She would cry in horror, “You’ll die of the murrain if you don’t keep clothed!”
Of course, this was a situation that could not go on, and my mother prorogued my right to flit about in the altogether, while I, all of two, could only whimper in protest. Her words were more bitter than suckling upon a cruet of vinegar. Wefadged, she more forcefully, that I would not only wear the drugget, but also the outer attire she put on me at the beginning of the day.
Being small and unlanguaged, my tantrums against this injustice were an epopee.
Alas, my dear mother had no ear for my unreasonable rhymes and resorted to a most painful curative for my froppishness.
She promised me that if I would behave and wear my clothes, I would get pudding for dessert. 
I smiled, and fadged to wear my togs for the whole day, with the understanding that there was a reward of pudding for doing so.
And so I spent the day playing nangerly in my play yard, dreaming of pudding, mypeckled face a beacon of chocolaty hope for the after-dinner.
Alas, after-dinner produced the hard hoped-for pudding, and I, instead of being grateful, as all children should be, diffided that I didn’t WANT the pudding. 
Mother sat silently as I crossed my arms and put out my lower lip. “You WILL eat your pudding!” A war of attrition had begun and I was determined to win it.
So was mother, whose peckled face became a rash of seething red, and a fumidheat shimmered above her even redder hair.
Spilth! Went the pudding down my face, which had opened into a screaming maw of rage and chocolate.
She smiled in triumph, having won her battle with me.
But I won the war, for no sooner than I was baptized in pudding, I once again found myself happily disrobed.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Which Reminds Me

Posted originally at Jaded Haven, whose proprietrix has taken down her shingle and thrown in the ink blotter. The blogging world will sorely miss her. I know I will. I had a devil of a time trying to find this essay, but given the spiritual turmoil I am currently under lately, I thought I would trot it out before it gets exiled to the circular file. 

 Little White Church Photograph - Little White Church Fine Art Print - Warren Thompson

Driving leisurely through Daphne’s archives often sends my mental carriage fishtailing out of control. If not with fits of  giggles, then with sated sighs, and every so often, rage and grief.   This essay caused my memory  to go into reverse without pausing for neutral.   Read as her skilled hand causes the wreck which follows:
Long held secrets came spilling out the summer I turned seven, killing the balancing act of my parent’s marriage.  On High Island, we attended church every Sunday morning in a white clapboard building that held no more than a hundred souls in the pews. Maybe once a month, on Saturday evenings, we’d attend tent revivals held for traveling charismatic preachers. My daddy’s family looked forward to these religious spectacles. They scared me shitless. Regular Pentecostal services are a wide world away from their Catholic, Episcopalian or Baptist equivalents. Tent revivals exist in a whole other realm. I watched my stalwart, calm faced aunts, female cousins and grandmother moan, speak in tongues, faint in ecstasy, handle snakes and dance like demons. The normally stoic male members of my family exhibited similar bouts of frightening behavior. I hated tent revivals, spending most of them hidden under my folding chair, eyes squeezed tight shut, fingers shoved in my ears, waiting to be carried out to the safety of the car and driven home.
Ah, you’ve caused me to drive the car backwards into a ditch, Daphne, and now you’ll have to sit with me for a spell. Have a Slurpee while I share my own tale of Pentecaustic Woe.

My father’s only love is the piano.  My mother once complained that he spent more time at the piano than with her, and she was going to leave him if he didn’t get off that infernal thing and watch Lucy with her on the tee-vee. Without a word, he went into the bedroom, packed her bags, left them in the hallway and went back to practicing. She never complained about it again.

By day he sold pianos at the French Market in Kansas City, at least, he made a valiant effort. By night he played in mob-owned strip clubs. His desire to be Sarah Vaughan’s accompanist was never realized – his brush with fleeting fame at that time was posing in a photograph with Lawrence Welk.

He wasn’t a very good salesman. He’d start his spiel by offering the customer advice,  then select a piano that would go with the rest of their furniture.  At the point he had to close the deal, he would demonstrate the piano’s virtues, and forgetting the customer, he would begin to play. And play. The customer, realizing he would never be able to play that well, left.  But there were occasions when he made the sale. And that was usually to a church.

Dad played the organ in our church. He was the only member who could. Our church was a small, nondenominational collective of anal, henpecked men whose wives were gossiping scolds. Our family was their main source of nourishment.

The problem the church busybodies had with my father was how he played the organ.

Musically, he was a black man in a church full of tone deaf Klansmen. His playing was a thing of exquisite blasphemy. He cast aside the Methodist three-chord blandishments and restraints  and pumped in chords and forbidden rhythms from the Devil’s own Fake Book,  inspiring lustful arousal – augmented minors, dominant sevenths and tenths vamped with a downbeat and walking bass lines. He made the Wurlitzer wail and moan with orgasmic pleasure.

Alas, in our church, there was no amen choir for such playing. There was no choir at all. Just congregational singing at its worst. I spent my time in those moments by making up new words for whatever hymn we were singing.

And then he sold a baby grand to a Pentecostal church.
The preacher, an organist himself, invited us to visit his church. My father, wary of all things Roman Catholic or Charismatic, would have declined, but for the money.  Come Sunday, the six of us showed up, dressed in our faded, Goodwill best.

The preacher had roped off a whole pew for us midway from the front to the back and we filed in, youngest to oldest.  My father sat next to the center aisle, removing the only avenue of escape.

The service started off well, with robust and joyous singing. The preacher played the organ, with his wife at the new piano.  The church members sang well, clapped their hands, and for once, my father felt kinship with a church.

After the  preacher introduced us and made announcements, the praying commenced. And such praying it was. Nothing prepared us for the praying.


The six of us froze as one. I slowly opened my eyes and turned to look at my father for silent instruction. He was waxen. His eyes were as wide as mine, and he was sweating. He made no expression, and did not look back at my inquiring gaze.
My older brother likewise, was a stone.

“HAMMANA  SHEE TOGEE YODEE YODEE VOVOVOVO TANGA MENTO DODEEDODO!” continued the preacher. Everyone, save for us, had their eyes closed and hands upraised, each beseeching their Lord and Savior in his own tongue.

I looked at my little sister, Malinda, on my left, who looked back at me with the same expression I gave her. And then I looked beyond her to my little brother, Stacy, expecting the same reaction. My mouth fell open as I watched him press the palms of his hands to his mouth.

“Oh Lord, please don’t do what I think you’re gonna do!” I thought, hoping he would see the word “NO” forming on my lips and the slight shake of my head. He did, of course, but chose not to listen to his Better Angel.

“PPPPFFFFTTTTH!” he softly farted with his mouth into his hands.
My father’s stupor was over. Turning, he glared at Little Brother, his jaw clenched in rage.  I stared straight ahead, as the raucous gibbering of the congregation continued. I felt my father’s arm slide behind my neck.  With a silent flick of his wrist he slapped Little Brother’s head.

Only he missed, and hit Little Sister’s head, instead.
“Ow! Whud I do?” she cried, rubbing her head.  Dad leaned to his left a bit more and flicked his hand again. And once more, he missed Little Brother, hitting Little Sister.

I tried to stifle the laughter forming in the pit of my stomach. I struggled and failed. My whole body shook. I looked again at Little Brother and in a brief display of mercy, he quit face-farting. My eyes began to water and I bit my lip. The preacher, squawking ecstatic insanities heavenward was now moving up the aisle. He paused at each pew and placed his hands on the head of the person sitting closest to the aisle and spewed sacred gibberish, following with the only word I understood:  "Amen!”  He continued up the aisle toward us. I bit my lip hard, to stop myself from laughing. I gave a pleading look at Little Brother, who decided to play the face game.

Pulling his cheeks downward and rolling his eyes into the back of his head, he opened his mouth to show only his bottom teeth. Zombie face.

“Please, oh please oh please, just STOP!” I silently prayed.  Little Brother continued, this time pulling the sides of his head back to make his eyes squint. He sucked in his cheeks and pursed his lips, with his front teeth protruding. Chinese face.

I covered my mouth with my hands and laughed, as my whole body shook. I gave up trying to control myself and began to cry. The preacher stopped at our pew. He stopped chattering and spoke loudly in English:

“Brothers and Sisters,” he bellowed, looking directly at me. “This child is filled with the Holy Ghost!”

And with that, the entire congregation got up from their pews and surrounded us, laying hands on my head, while rapidly praying to Jesus in heartfelt, unintelligible noise. Some were overwhelmed and cried.

Once more, I froze, and waited for the blessing to pass. The preacher said, “Amen!’ and a chorus of amens followed.

There was a sermon, I believe. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was about. Little Brother sat still for the rest of the service, when he saw that I was bored with his antics.

Once we left the church and got into the car, Dad turned to look at us, his face shaking with rage.

We held our breaths, awaiting the judgment and punishment that was sure to come. Instead, he laughed. Long and hard. And we laughed with him. All the way home. Back to our neighborhood of drug addicts, drunks, wife beaters, gangs and crazy ladies.

We all got out of the car as the Crazy Lady walked slowly by.
“Goddamnsonofabitch! Goddamnsonofabitch! Goddamnsonofabitch!” she incanted. Those were the only words anyone had ever heard her say. She stopped to look at us.

And we replied, “Amen!”

Please take some time and read Daphne's wonderful and hilarious piece of weirdness and the comments left by the readers. They are all brilliant, witty, and one of the reasons I will miss Daphne and her razor-sharp mind

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dangers of Falling Asleep While Watching Television

My daughter Emily, was playing Skyrim, a video game of Vikings, of magic spells and dragons. The volume was  low enough not to bother me as I dozed. Behind my recliner, the fan was humming its beautiful white noise, and the breeze being sucked in was refreshing and cool enough to cause me to fall into a delicious nap. Which I promptly did. 

I began to dream a most realistic dream. In it. Emily had summoned all the dragons who lived beneath the seas, and they began to set the seas to boil, and all the creatures in the seas cooked, and when the dragons were done eating the whales and dolphins and the toasted sharks with jellyfish, they began to burn everything down.

I became very angry at Emily for letting the dragons out, but she, in my dream, was only three years old, and thought it was very great fun. The sounds of people being broiled alive didn’t seem to bother her at all. She just wanted to ‘pet the pretty horsies’.

And that is why you should never, ever, ever have anything but a fan blowing when you take a nap.

This has been your cautionary tale of the day.