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):
Left 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):
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):
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.