and so, it begins

This will be updated with notes. After I have coffee. Until then, the day has begun, I have a battle plan, the beach head has been secured.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Notes: what works

  • Prepping the kitchen – spent the run-up to T-Day cleaning out and organizing the kitchen. Not all at once, either – I would simply tackle a drawer, a cupboard, a counter area. This morning, I was greeted with harmony and order – a welcome feeling for a ten-hour KP shift.
  • Timing everything – in previous years, I would schedule key dishes that are time-sensitive (turkey and rolls), then attack all other dishes in the interim. This year, I decided to map out when all dishes would be prepared, which allowed me to arrange things so I only need to focus on one dish (and occasionally, a minor task) at a time.
  • Mis en place – anything that could be done ahead of time, I did. Chopping herbs/veg, staging pans, lining baking sheets, putting together (and sifting) the dry part of my cake mix into a baggy.
  • Posting recipes and notes – prep work, timing and recipes were written out on index cards and posted on my fridge. It’s out of the way, but still convenient to refer to.

Notes: what doesn’t work

  • I’m superstitious – if I don’t acknowledge that stuff might not work, Fate might be tempted to take me on a journey through cooking hell, reminiscent of my pre-SGG days. So, this is a placeholder for the (hopefully not) inevitable.

Leftovers:

I hate them. Passionately. Since my eldest and her dude are in Greece (closer to Turkey than turkey, I imagine), it’s just me and two small mouths to feed. Still making a full meal, though – the remains will be packed up and driven out to the BFE tomorrow, to share with my best friend and his family (who elected not to cook, because he is over it). Two T-Days for the price and effort of one; I’m good with that!

creating agency

It’s tax season.  I cook but don’t blog about it, because my weeks stretch out 50ish hours and I’m lucky if I’m awake enough to conjugate a verb by Saturday at 4, let alone ponder the world of food.

Yesterday was not much different, but it started with a delightful business breakfast (@The Potholder Cafe) and a random encounter with an acquaintance I haven’t seen in seven or eight years.  The last time I saw her, I was still in Frumpy Mode, with a wardrobe full of ugly, ill-fitting attire usually eschewed for Mom Jeans and shapeless sweaters.

I was wearing a swanky A-line dress, cable knit bolero and low-heeled sandals, which came from a closet of similarly-classy attire.  My hair was styled and I had makeup on.  Granted, I felt feel like death; I have a low-grade fever, racking cough and possibly an ear infection from a cold that has hung on for the last month.  I only spent 30 minutes scraping myself together, from turning on the shower to walking out the door.  But I looked sharp, and it drove the initial part of the catching-up, since my acquaintance was in FM.

Commence interrogation.

Do you dress like that every day?   Well, yes, unless I have a specific reason to dress down.  Like, it’s a Saturday night and I have to drive to work to find out why our server just went offline.  (I think I scared the shit out of the janitorial crew.)

Is it comfortable?  I wouldn’t be wearing it if it wasn’t.  Trendy-not-comfy is a young woman’s game.  I’m an old broad; I have myriad sins to hide and high muckety-mucks to interact with; looking like I’m on top of things is key, even when I feel like death.  A-line dresses from Nordstrom Rack and Clark’s shoes on clearance are what I live in.

Well, I work in the parole office and I’m not management, so I tend to dress down.  

[insert change of subject here]

What we didn’t get into was why I made the transition from Frumpy Mode.  In truth, it had nothing to do with my managerial position (after 18 years, I can get away with FM) nor my interactions with HMM (my primary dealings are with a client demographic is similar to hers).  About four years ago, I made a decision that I wanted to be taken seriously by everyone with whom I interacted, regardless of circumstance or reason.

Not a function of conceit so much as an interest in creating agency, influencing the way I am perceceived by others.

I was a huge fan of MAD Magazine back in the 80s. One of the old cartoons is germane, and came up in a similar conversation I had with The Dude last summer.  The cartoon showed the progression of a chap through the corporate world, as he worked his way up from mailroom clerk to CEO.  That mailroom clerk is then shown in a number of styles (Young Executive through Senior VP), looking more well-heeled with each move up the ladder.  Then the cartoon’s final frame showed the CEO – and older, grizzled version of the mailroom clerk.

The Dude logs enough air miles to enjoy a bump up to Business Class on any number of airlines. His typical look is unshaven, casually dressed, rumpled, hair askew and zero fucks given.  He’d look perfectly at home sitting against a wall in Skid Row.   Yet, he also looks perfectly at home flying Business Class in all his rumpled glory, according to a flight attendant with whom the subject once came up.  According to the FA, folks would simply assume that he was some IPO whiz kid, worth a billion dollars on paper and unconcerned with (and unbeholden to) the perception of others.

The Dude can get away with that.  There was no female version of the MM cartoon, because that’s not how psychology works.  He can rock the Neo-Lumberjack and be perceived as an UberMale, if the surroundings suggest CEO rather than mailroom clerk.  Females do not get the benefit of creating agency by osmosis.  Hence, Coco Chanel:

Dress shabbily, they notice the dress.  Dress impeccably, they notice the woman.

Fair?  No.  Reality?  Yes.  And that’s okay.  If thirty minutes in hair/makeup/wardrobe can do the heavy lifting, and I can get through 10-hour days in comfort, that’s completely okay.

Today will not be a 10-hour day, thankfully.  But it starts with a early networking/power breakfast, so it’s time to go pick an outfit and trowel on the war paint.  Still feel like death, but I’ll be the most stylish corpse in the cemetery.

confessions of a double dipper

Yes, some people find it messy, gross, whatever. So I don’t do it at parties, or in polite company, or even in impolite company.  I didn’t double-dip whilst on holiday, which would seem a natural time to engage in food shenanigans.  (I was too busy drinking and getting plowed like highway snow, the memory of which will have to suffice until a friggin eternity  hell freezes over  the second coming of Christ  I give up trying  next vacation.)

I *do* double-dip at home, with alacrity and without a shred of remorse. Yes [back of hand placed delicately to forehead, looking away to the horizon with chagrin], I double-dip my chicken.

So should you.

 

Typically, I bake or roast chicken.  For chicken pieces, a soak in that Korean(ish) marinade for 45 minutes, followed by 45 minutes of covered baking at 325 degrees, then open roasting at 450 degrees for 25 minutes, produces a delightful protein that the kids leave denuded of all but the bone and the cluck.

But sometimes, I like to fry the chicken.  And when I fry, I double-dip.  As a Southerner by heritage if not by birth, soggy fried chicken or breading left in the frying pan are abominations which are not tolerated.  If it doesn’t stick, and it doesn’t crunch, it ain’t fried chicken – that’s just some mess you poached in oil, bless yer heart.

Oddly, I have no measurements.  Just a list of things that I do, which turns out moist, juicy chicken encased in flavorful crunch.  Here goes; hold my beer:

Equipment

  • 12-inch frying pan, half-full of vegetable oil and heated on medium-high until the flour sizzles
  • two sets of tongs (one for dealing with the raw chicken, one for frying)
  • catering pan (enough to hold the marinating chicken)
  • small bowl (for the egg dip)
  • 8 x 4 loaf pan (for the flour dip)
  • aluminum foil, large enough to rest the dipped chicken
  • baking sheet lined with paper towels

Marinade (catering pan)

  • milk, enough to cover chicken
  • vinegar, maybe 1t per cup of milk
  • hot sauce, enough to turn the milk pink
  • salt, eyeballed…but a 10% solution by weight works

Egg Dip

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • shitload of hot sauce (enough to turn the eggs orange)

Flour Dip (all eyeballed)

  • self-rising flour (look through my 1-2-3-4 cake recipe, or Google it)
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Doin’ Stuff

After 2 hours in the marinade at room temp, the chicken is double-dipped, egg dip first.  I let it set up on the sheet of foil for about 10 minutes while the oil heats up, because I want that meat glue/flour mixture to cling to the chicken for dear life.

The fry time will depend on the piece.  I typically fry legs, so 6 minutes per side will get it to the color in the photo.  When in doubt, fry to the color you want, then set it in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes or so to finish.  The nice thing about that salty, ersatz buttermilk brine is that the chicken will survive the time in the oven without becoming chicken jerky.

shaping sticky dough

My dinner roll recipe is a very wet dough, so it spends a long time in the fridge.  Once it’s removed from the fridge and I begin working with it, it will become very sticky very quickly.  So, here’s how I shape it:

I prep the work surface and pan before the dough comes out of the fridge.  That means:

  1. The surface is lightly floured, but I have a measuring cup of flour to the side just in case.
  2. I have a pizza cutting wheel next to the surface.
  3. I have the pan next to the surface.

I know I want a dozen-roll dough to be patted out into roughly a 12″ X 9″ rectangle.  So, I use a bench knife to cut a rectangle that size into the center of the floured work surface, as a visual reference.

I don’t fuck around when the dough comes out – I flour my hands, pull the dough out fast and begin stretching/patting the dough into the visual reference area.  There is about a two-minute window before the dough starts sticking to everything, so I don’t focus on exact measurements, just approximating the visual reference.

I use the pizza wheel to slice the dough, and eyeball the cuts to roughly the width and length of my index finger and thumb making an L shape 2″ wide, 4.5″ long.  If you have big hands, measure your L shape before you pull out the dough, and adjust accordingly.

Once the cutting is done, I fold each shape into thirds and place the rolls end-down on the pan.  Even when I work fast, the last pieces shaped will stick more to everything than the first, so I will flour my hands a bit more after shaping half the rolls.

Happy shaping!

dinner rolls and timing

A bakers' dozen of #omnomnom

One of the things I’ve determined when churning out dinner rolls to go with a roasted bird is that the optimal time to put the rolls in the oven is as soon as the bird comes out.  The oven temp will be perfect (325, cranking it up to 350 if using a conventional oven), and for a 20-25 minute bake, the rolls can be pulled from the oven, brushed with softened butter and get a few minutes to cool down while the bird is carved.  The timing just works out well.

This also means that the timing of the dough formation, bulk fermentation and bench rise should be calculated against the time the bird comes out of the oven.  Working backwards, then:

My bird will come out at 3:30pm.

90-minute bench rise takes us to 2:00pm.

15 minutes for shaping takes us to 1:45pm.

360-minute bulk fermentation in the fridge takes us to 7:45am. (This is for sanity’s sake; the dough is horrifying to shape at room temp.)

10 minutes with the dough hook on high speed takes us to 7:35am. (It’s done when the dough cleans itself off the bowl.  You won’t think it will.  It will.)

30-minute autolysis takes us to 7:05am.

5 minutes for scaling out the ingredients and giving it a brief stir to combine takes us to 7:00am.

And 60 minutes to get ingredients up to room temp gives us a 6:00am start time.

For dinner rolls.  6:00am.  But so worth it.  (The photo is from two Thanksgivings ago.  I am particularly thankful on this day for Instagram, since I seem to have deleted the photo from my iPad sometime between then and now!)

The Dough (for 12 rolls)

  • 450g all-purpose flour
  • 4g yeast
  • 7g salt
  • 48g sugar
  • 120g water
  • 240g milk (room temp; buttermilk is also delightful)
  • 1 egg (room temp)
  • 90g butter (room temp); use the remainder of the stick for a post-bake shine

the ten percent solution: brown sugar brine



The Anal Proportion (scale up/down as needed)

  • 1000g water
  • 75g table salt
  • 25g brown sugar

For this bird (12 pound turkey), I mixed 7,500g water with 562g salt and 188g sugar in a garbage bag-lined stock pot (unscented!), dropped the turkey in, closed up the bag and covered the works with a layer of frozen gel packs.  It will brine for 8 hours, get a thorough rinse and pat dry, then come up to room temp.  I’ll rub it down with butter and stuff it with aromatics (onion and sage) before sticking it into The Arsonist at 400 degrees for 60 minutes (breast side down), then 325 degrees for 60 minutes (breast side up).

I don’t have a V-rack.  I have a foil-lined 13″ X 9″ pan with two cooling racks on top.  It does the job.

If you don’t like anal, use:

The Missionary Position (again, scale to suit)

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1c table salt
  • 1/2c brown sugar

the beast is appeased



At least, partially appeased.  Got my act together and put in my AF order; if I don’t expire in a fit of foodie bliss tonight, I will certainly be ready to risk severe artery clogging with a lux mac & cheese tomorrow night.

Full confession: the kids wanted to try a piece, since they dined on other things.  Giving up a shrimp was more difficult than I have words to adequately describe.  I made them clean things first.  I’m a mean mommy.  But damn it, this scampi is GOOD.  Like, impress your boss/your mother-in-law/people who could find fault with Mister-Fucking-Rogers good.  Like, wipe the bowl clean with slices of baguette good.  Definitely like lick the bowl clean if you are avoiding bread for the next 30 days (like I am; more like sacrificing bread on the altar of Maybe-But-I’ll-Get-Back-To-You) good.