food


These past few days have been a study in caloric amplification. For example: It’s amazing how good eight ounces of eggnog tastes with a large dollop of coolwhip topping and an extra shot of Drambuie. All the better when it was chasing down a slice of my baybee’s fantastic pumpkin pecan cheesecake… one that’s been shamelessly outfitted with a healthy hat of peanut butter.

[singing] …And the whole world has to answer right now just to tell you once again: Who’s bad!?

To top it all off yesterday I ordered an amazing pizza from the previously unknown Tomato Pie Pizza Joint here in Silver Lake, which would have remained undiscovered had I not supported Small Business Saturday with a visit to my local Baller’s Hardware. There it was across the street from the hardware store as I left, and the next day when I was considering football-watching lunch options, visions of pizza danced in my head. About 45-minutes later Tomato Pie had delivered just about the best most unique I’ve ever had. It’s called the Ruthie Swan and its an 18-inch diameter of utter heaven featuring salami, green apples, gorgonzola and caramelized onion. Trust me on this, it’s phenomenal. At $22, it ain’t cheap, but after savoring it I’d only hesitate ordering it again if it was $30 — especially since with an unexpected display of restraint there were leftovers enough for dinner.

But! That was then and this is now. And while I’m gonna give myself a couple days to re-moderate my intake before stepping on the bathroom scale and have it laugh at me, I’m back on the wagon. Yogurt and banana for breakfast. Clif bars. Apples. Actual numeric servings of things rather than just bold grabby handfuls. And no peanut butter fashionably accessorizing anything. Eggnog, however? There are two bottles of Broguiere’s in the back of the fridge. And Tomato Pie’s phone number on speed dial.

I hear laughter coming from the bathroom.

Sorry, but there’s Broguiere’s Eggnog in the house now.  And with that liquid gold weighing in at about 50 calories a fluid ounce — not counting any alcohol augmentation — and three more bottles where this pictured one came from —  it’s officially ’tis the season not to give a damn… or at least not too much of one.

Trust me, I may be “going Brog” so to speak in regards to moderation, but there’ll be a whoooole lot more biking and walking going on these next few weeks to try to balance what will certainly be an increase in intake.

I don’t ever need an excuse to go to my favorite restaurant, but this time I have one. After attending the party celebrating its grillmaster’s 1941 Tatra T87 win in the New York Times Collectible Car of the Year contest, I did as I said I would and took the photo I snapped of the car’s badge, goofed with it a bit in Photoshop and ordered up a mounted canvas-ized print of it from Snapfish.

I told Susan that if it arrived this week and it didn’t look like a total piece of crap, we’d be dining at Blue Star Saturday so as I could present it to Paul as  token of my esteem and admiration.

Sure enough, it arrived yesterday and I think it looks pretty cool (click it for the bigger picture):

Date burger, here I come!

Recorded and sent directly to YouTube from my iPhone4. Sorry for the vertical letterboxing. I was trying to hold the device “properly” like a doof.

What a crazy busy wonderful last coupla days. If there’s ever been a 48-hour period where I’ve bitten off more than I could chew but still managed to swallow it all without choking, this was it. It all started Friday night coming home from work with an intensive trip to the market to procure all the ingredients for the Coca-Cola-Brined Fried Chicken recipe (that I wrote about here) I’d been salivating over since reading about it in the current issue of Esquire magazine.

I’d been thinking of cooking it for Sunday, but a late-breaking freelance edit/rewrite gig wasn’t going to allow that so I decided instead of just Susan and me I’d whip up a batch for us and however many cycling pals returned with us from The Village Idiot Ride (that I wrote about here). Keep in mind, I’ve never done much of anything from scratch. Also keep in mind I’ve never fried chicken or cooked for a group. As such I even had hamburger patties and brats onhand as a contingency if my culinary endeavor failed miserably — which it almost did, but more on that later.

So by 8 a.m. Saturday morning in preparation for the arrival of my friend Steve and Alice and Manny and Ingrid and everyone else who might be biking with us over to the restaurant on Melrose,  I had beers on ice in the cooler and was getting the outside and inside of the house in order and cleaned up, first tackling the front and back yards and then the weeks-overdue vacuuming and dusting of the first floor while Susan did the same upstairs.

We managed to finish all that in time for me to get down to the business of mixing the brining mixture and the batter mix and the relish, and getting the chicken marinating in time for me to get cleaned up and ready for everyone to arrive. And by everyone I mean all these cool cats who paused long enough for an awesome group picture in front of the house by Susan before we set out for the crosstown ride (click it to enlarge):

groupshotLeft to right, top to bottom:
Barleye, Alice, Steve, Ingrid, Harry
Lance, Esther*, Daniel*, Dak, Stephanie, Jeff
Roadblock, John, Some Guy, Manny
*Thanks to Steve for filling in the blanx I was having with these names!

While Susan and I are generally nice people, we’re not the most social of animals and thus haven’t had this many people at the house since our wedding reception back in ’05 — and certainly never so many cycling pals!

So off we rode to The Village Idiot restaurant, where owner and my next-door neighbor Dean greeted us, and Steve and his “guardian angel” in the form of the restaurant’s barkeep Simon got a chance to reunite under far happier circumstances (click it to enlarge):

sns

After leaving the restaurant, a majority percentage — including late arrival Marino (who showed up while we were at the restaurant) returned home with me. In addition Manny stopped off to bring his wife Cybele over, and I commenced to almost fail in my attempt to complete the relatively simple task of thoroughly cooking some battered chicken thighs in hot oil.

Instead as it turned out, I only half-cooked most of them. Fortunately Marino cut his in half and showed me the trouble before anyone could ingest the undercooked meat and Cybele came up with the plan to recover the distributed food and toss them in the oven for a spell.

Thus they emerged from the O’Keefe & Merritt cooked through now as Coca-Cola-Brined Fried Baked Chicken, and it was generally well received. Sure I was disheartened, but would have been decidedly moreso had anyone taken ill because of my failure. And if it’s any consolation, on Sunday Susan took the leftover batter and extra package of thighs and did them up right. Here are the thumbnails of  a photoset of the overall recipe-in-progress  (viewable here on Flickr):

sequence

Sunday was a horse of an entire different color. Whereas I was all over the place Saturday cleaning and riding and socializing and cooking (or attempting to), the seventh day found me in front of my computer from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (with only a few short breaks and a sole one-hour retreat in the mid-afternoon) trudging through a late-breaking editing/rewrite gig. But I wasn’t complaining (at least not about the job as much as about the article’s condition) because even though it effectively removed me from enjoying the last day of the weekend, it paid me for my freelance services as an editorial cleaner almost as much as what I take home for two weeks at the office.

Let’s just say it’d buy a lot of chicken. And some lessons on how to cook it.

I don’t do a lot of meal making in the kitchen that involves preparations beyond seasoning something and putting it to some manner of heat. I think the most complicated thing I’ve ever made is cookies or cakes. Or daiquiris the way Hemingway drank ’em in Cuba.

This weekend though, thanks to a unique and intriguing dish from chef John Currence — involving two of my favorite if seemingly incongruous things: Coca-Cola and chicken — found in the “How Men Eat” feature of the current issue of Esquire magazine (oddly enough I couldn’t find it at esquire.com, but here reprinted at nola.com instead), I’m going to actually wander the aisles of markets buying a variety of ingredients that will then involve measuring, mixing, whisking, blending, marinating, dipping, heating, turning, chopping and garnishing in hopes of turning the following recipe into my attempt at what Currence called the best fried chicken he’s ever had. Y’all stay tuned now.

John Currence’s Coca-Cola-Brined Fried Chicken

12 chicken thighs (skin on)
Peanut oil and lard, for frying

BRINING MIX
1 quart Coca Cola
1 teaspoon Liiquid Smoke (optional)
2 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco
3 tablespoons ground black pepper
3 tablespoons coarse salt

BATTER
1 egg
3/4 cup peanut oil

DRY MIX (well combined)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons coarse salt
4 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 1/2 cups flour

To brine: Rinse chicken, drain, and set aside. Blend together brining mix until salt dissolves. Place chicken in brine in a large covered bowl and marinate, refrigerated, for 4 hours.

To batter: Whisk egg well in a stainless steel bowl and add peanut oil and 2 1/2 cups water. Add in dry mix, whisking slowly so batter doesn’t clump.

To prepare chicken: Fill a large cast-iron skillet halfway with equal amounts peanut oil and lard. Slowly bring temperature to 375 degrees. (Use a candy thermometer.)

While oil is heating, remove chicken from brine and place in a colander in sink. Once chicken has drained, pat dry with paper towels (a critical step) and season with salt and pepper.

Dip chicken in batter and place (carefully) in hot oil. Adjust heat, as the chicken will bring down the oil temperature dramatically — you want it back up to just above 350 degrees. Turn chicken regularly, using tongs, to prevent burning.

After 8 or 9 minutes, remove a piece, prick it to the bone with a fork, and mash it. If the juices run clear, it’s done. Continue cooking if necessary.

Serve with Pickle-Garlic Relish (below). Cover any leftovers with a dish towel and leave out at room temperature (or in the fridge, if you must, although my grandmother never did). This keeps it crispy.

PICKLE-GARLIC RELISH
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1 cup hamburger dill pickle chips
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
Chop everything finely and combine. Add a little pickle juice, if desired. Refrigerate.

hddm

Thanks to Shadow’s extended (and long-overdue) visit to the dog groomer yesterday, she now looks great but I ended up being about an hour late to the Hot Dog Death March (HDDM) festivities that began at Pink’s on La Brea. Fortunately I arrived in the nick of time to enter my  submission in the Hot Dog Haiku contest, which went on to win a runner-up award and  went a little sumpthin’ like dis:

Hebrew National
Answers to a higher source
“God” is “dog” backwards

The lateness of my arrival and the perpetually preposterous line at Pink’s precluded my patronage, but I ended up giving in to the temptations of Oki-Dog’s namesake menu item, followed up with an order of tasty Skooby fries and a glass of some of the best lemonade in the world. This on top of my visit with Susan to Blue Star Restauarant for an encore of their Shield’s Dateburger left me in no need for dinner.

And I wasn’t the only one to bike the march! My friend and fellow Great L.A. walker Joni, traversed the route on two wheels, as did a fellow from downtown coincidentally named William. Thanks to Joni getting us together in front of Scooby’s on Hollywood Boulevard for a snapshot, here we are below with my fellow L.A. Metbloggers and HDDM organizers extraordinaire Julia and Lucinda Michele (from left: William, Julia, Lucinda Michele, me (wearing my haiku prize), and Joni):

hddmla-11

An awesome great time and hotdogs were had by all!

Here’s my photoset on Flickr.

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