June 17, 2013 Comments Off on wings


C wandered in to the kitchen. “Can I hang out in here?” he asked, “I’m hiding.”
“Sure,” I told him. “What are you hiding from?”
“O. She’s watching My Little Pony again.”
This is a thing amongst the high school set. A show that was unwatchable by any kid except the horse/princess-obsessed three year old that she once was is now the coolest thing on TV. I cannot for the life of me understand this, but another thing is trying to eat a quarter cup of cinnamon dry. So I’m not sure which is worse.
“There are guys who are into it, too,” C told me. “They’re called brownies.”
“We had a name for guys like that in high school,” I told him. “But it wasn’t brownies.” C thought this was hilarious.
“I HEARD THAT,” shouted O from the other room. “DISAPPROVE.”
She approved of that plate up above, though. Grilled buffalo wings. Her request. I head back to Chicago for the better part of a week on Wednesday and they each got to pick a dinner. The boy picked pimiento Mac, which will be duly served tomorrow evening. By he didn’t object to her choice.
We hadn’t made these for a long time. They give me a slight panic attack, since most recipes involve coating deep fried wings in a sauce made mostly of butter. Over time I’ve figured out that you can cut down on the chicken fat by grilling them on the cool side first to render most of the skin before torching them over the hot side. And that the butter is completely unnecessary–tossing them in a bit of Frank’s red hot alone may not be authentic, but it’s not any less tasty. And you have a better chance of actually getting up from the table.
And the blue cheese dressing? Low fat Greek yogurt with reduced fat blue cheese crumbles. Needless to say, this was for me only. And if it wasn’t luscious and silky, it at least had the acid snap of the yogurt to go with the cheese.
O wanted French fries to go with these, of course, but we compromised on oven fries. Mix of fingerling potatoes, roasted at 375 degrees for half an hour, then tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and some sliced garlic. Another fifteen minutes and you get gently flavored potatoes and a whole mess of garlic chips.
All in all? Total clean plate club. And that’s after they demolished a bowl full of crudités in front of the TV beforehand (good trick, that…). They have been to the pool six of the last seven days, so they’ve been outside for three or four hours straight, in addition to the uphill walk home. They deserve some free range protein, some starchy carbs, and some spicy goodness,


grilled chicken, radicchio, and…

October 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

So, another handover weekend, and this one went pretty well.  Nothing forgotten, apparently.  It helps that the boy isn’t wearing his retainer anymore, and that Mrs. K insists on throwing herself in front of the door two hours before departure.

Anyway, we finished up this two week Domestically Challenged stint with a blast.  I bought season tickets to the university’s student theater program, since they’re doing Rent, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and To Kill a Mockingbird, all of which I think the kids will enjoy.  Their opening was Hedda Gabler, a Henrik Ibsen play about which I knew nothing.  But after last week’s successful string quartet outing, I figured the kids would be fine.  L came up and we planned to grill quickly after the boy had his weekly comic store card game session.

So we’re sitting watching the fire get ready and L asks what the play’s about.  “I don’t know,” I admitted.  “Norwegian existentialism.  How could we go wrong?”  She Googled it.  “It’s about the wife of a bumbling academic.  She has an affair and tries to get him to kill himself,” she said.


We stayed in and watched Toy Story III instead.  But we did grill, and we did it pretty well.  The kids had organic brats and dogs, but L and I went one step further. I brined a couple of chicken breasts, she marinated some radicchio and portobello mushrooms.  It was a full grill, but since we figured this might be the last of the season it was worth a bit of charcoal debauchery.  You can see the results, at least the bits that photographed well.  The kids were happy, we were happy,everyone was full, and Toy Story III was a bit less of a downer than Ibsen promised.

And for dessert?  O had been pestering me to grill pineapple for weeks.  Grilled apricot hadn’t worked all that well, so I had been reluctant.  But once L caught wind of O’s idea, they were off and running.  No grill, they decided.  Saute pan, butter, and sugar.  L got it started, but O manned the spatula.  “The secret is to not touch them until they’re ready,” L told her, and O waited patiently until the bottoms were nice and browned.  Lesson for the day?  A Maillard reaction equals delicious nommability.  And do some research before you take the kids to a Norwegian drama.

tandoori chicken

February 12, 2011 Comments Off on tandoori chicken

Basically, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.  I wasn’t, really.  We’ve been chugging along in the ‘try new foods’ department, it’s been about a week since either kid needed a mulligan, but the reviews have been inconsistent.  O’s default response to our entrees has been “not the best, but if it was eat this or starve I guess I’d eat this.”  It’s been the boy that’s been the real surprise–he’s gone after new stuff with some real fortitude, made some discoveries along the way, and handed over the title of fussiest eater in the family to his big sister.

So I really should have gone with a defensive move–maybe used the rest of the pork tenderloin but called it chicken, or done hamburgers again now that sloppy joes went over moderately well.  But this tandoori chicken recipe had been staring me in the face for a week or two.  I’ve still got a truckload of Garam Masala in the cabinet, and I thought if I could just get away with calling it Indian barbequed chicken, I might be able to slide it past.  I had a package of frozen drummies, so it seemed plausible, right?  The kids were skeptical but game.  “It will be awesome!” I said, in that voice that they now know means it might, just, not be awesome.  “Like barbequed chicken on the grill, but spicier!”  That, I think, lost them.

And if that didn’t, the holy reek of curry that must have hit them when they came in from a snowball fight outside definitely set their skeptic’s phasers to kill.  That, and the fact that on top of the stove was a saucepan full of peas.  “I hate peas,” said C, “just so you know.”

“No worries,” I said.  “Just try these.  I’ll butter them up really good.”

The tandoori was a simple but effective recipe.  Salt and spice the chicken like a dry rub, let it marinate for half and hour, then coat it with yogurt and more of the garam masala and chili powder.  Bake that for 25 minutes (I put the drummies in for a bit less), let them cool, fire up the broiler, and then char them for ten minutes.  They came out just this side of blackened, smoking hot, and filling the house with clouds of curry and cumin.  I had the leftover macaroni and cheese waiting in the microwave.

But the kids tried them.  Took one bite.  Took two.  And they absolutely loved them.  Loved the curry, loved the masala, loved the heat of the chili powder.  “Better than barbeque, Dad,” said O.  And as I was picking my jaw up off the floor, C chimed in that the peas were excellent, too.  “Must be a different recipe,” he said.  Um, yep.  That’s it.  I’ll make this one from now on.  O went back for seconds, and C polished off two whole drummies, which is more or less a protein record for him.  Both want to have them again.  Soon.  We’d better do it quickly, though, because I think it’s going to take a couple of weeks for the house to air out.  It smells gloriously like the end of a Friday night pub crawl in London around here…

Two for two.  The ever elusive two thumbs up.  Would not have guessed that tonight.

chicken milanese

February 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Baby steps forward…I was reading through our Cook’s Illustrated Italian Classics last week and getting all sorts of nostalgic when I ran across chicken Milanese.  This was familiar, but not from Italy.  K made this a lot after we’d had veal scallopine in Florence (I think), but we made it with chicken since good veal is hard to get.  So it’s nice to know it has a name.

Basically, it’s fried chicken, but sauteed instead of deep fried.  A lot less work and cleanup, but a very different crust.  The basic prep is the same–three bowls with flour, egg, and bread crumbs–but they go in a shallow pan instead of the dutch oven, and the crust comes out lighter and less dry.

Cook’s had a few tricks that seemed to work wonders.  First, they suggested brining the chicken.  I’m a big fan of this, since it keeps the meat from drying out and is, I think, the key to good grilled chicken (I should add that other family members disagree…)  We used tenderloins instead of full breasts, which worked well since they’re pretty skinny and cooked quickly.  This saved having to pound or roll the chicken breasts flat.  The second trick was to fully dry the chicken after brining–sandwiching the chicken between thick sheets of paper towels, pressing them to squeeze water out, and letting them sit for ten minutes.  They also called for drying the cutlets on a wire rack after breading, which ensured that the crust was nice and dry.  As a result it soaked up the oil in the pan well, which fried the crust all the way through.  Finally, they called for adding oil to the egg mixture, which helped adhere the crumbs to the meat.

There’s parmesan in a true Milanese, and I added some, but didn’t want the kids to notice so I kept the amount small (have I mentioned that I’ve also snuck broccoli slaw into their salads?).  The results were really good–light, crispy crust, but not as dense or as tough as deep fried chicken, and the meat was juicy all the way through, as you’d expect with the brining.  A bit of lemon and fresh grated parmesan on top, and a bed of whole wheat pasta with oil, and it was a popular meal.

Movie night tonight.  Two DVDs showed up from Netflix–Treasures of the Sierra Madre and The Simpsons Movie. You can guess which one I sold heavy, which one they picked, and which one I was sort of secretly glad to watch.  We’ll watch Bogie tomorrow, since schools have been called off and we have a real, full snow day to relax and enjoy.  “Badges?  We don’t need no stinking badges!”  Indeed…

chips, chips, chips

January 25, 2011 Comments Off on chips, chips, chips

I’ve got a mandoline.  I’ve got a Dutch oven.  And I’ve got a deep fry thermometer.  I’m not afraid to use any of them.  Or all of them.  And tonight, we used all of them.  With pretty spectacular results.

At the kids’ request, we’ve fooled around with a bunch of potato chip recipes, all of them so far in the oven.  And all of them have basically just sucked in different ways–too thin, too thick, too burned, too raw.  We finally gave up and just made oven fries, but our two modestly successful attempts at actual french fries in the Dutch oven inspired us to try potato chips again, this time on top of the stove.

Now that we’ve deep fried a bunch of stuff, I’m used to the routine.  And with the thermometer, I’m not quite as worried about setting the whole kitchen on fire.  I know where the flour is, but I no longer keep it right by the stove when we’re frying.  I looked up a couple of recipes, and it seemed country simple.  The main tricks seemed to be to slice the potatoes as thin as possible, and to soak up as much water from them as you could.  So I got out the OXO mandoline and set it to ‘kill’ (I tried a couple on ‘stun,’ and they were clearly going to be too thick), and then took each one of the paper thin slices and spread them out on paper towels.  A bit painstaking, but the towels ended up soaking wet, so clearly it was doing something.

I heated the oil up to 380°, which is pretty hot compared to some other stuff we’ve made, and dumped the first batch in.  They needed some quick stirring to keep them from bunching up, but once they were separated they browned quickly–some of them were ready in less than a minute.  I scooped them out as they browned and spread them out on some more paper towels.  A couple of batches later, we had some crispy, golden brown chips, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and we had our side dish.

And they were superb–really crisp, light, and not that oily since we let them sit for a while on the towels.  It was like eating crispy air (though there were a few underdone ones that added a nice-ahem-raw potato note).  Cheap in terms of calories, fat, and sodium, too, according to Epicurious.

The main dish they went with?  A really half-assed attempt at a light Chicken Parm.  I didn’t tell the kids anything about the parm bit, but found this recipe on line that dispensed with the goopy tomato sauce (the kids, you may remember, hate goop) and the slab of mozzarella on top.  This one called for dredging the chicken strips in a mix of mustard and vinegar and then in bread crumbs and parmesan, all with a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella on top and not a tomato in sight.  It sounded pretty good, but basically it was oven-fried chicken with a lackluster hit of mustard and cheese.  Nothing to write home about. C ate most of his, but O took a mulligan, only her second in two weeks.  “Honestly, Dad, those kind of sucked,” she said, and I had to agree.  Her uncle once told his mother that about a bowl of cranberry sauce and ended up with it on his head, but in this case she wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t know, so whatevs.  As long as she doesn’t use that phrase in front of her grandparents, I think I’m OK with it.

So, yeah.  Chicken parm leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  And probably Thursday, too.

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